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Napoleon passing the night in a Russian chateau near Mikalevka, after receiving 
the news of General Malet's conspiracy in Paris 

From the painting by Verestchagin 













DURING recent years the history of most of 
Napoleon's great campaigns has been given 
to the world, with the notable exception of 
that of the catastrophic Russian expedition of 1812. 
Apart from compilations, I have met only one original 
work on the subject, in the English language, during the 
ten years the present work has been in preparation. 

The publication of thousands of documents dealing 
with the struggle from the French side by the Historical 
Section of the French War Office, has rendered easily 
accessible an immense mass of material for the earlier 
period of the campaign. A beginning in this respect 
has also been made by the War Office at St. Petersburg, 
and some interesting light is thereby thrown upon the 
preparations on the Russian side, as well as upon the 
personalities of the Russian leaders. There are also 
many documents from private sources which have been 
collected and published. 

My aim has been simply to relate the history of the 
terrible campaign in straightforward fashion, without 
obscuring the narrative by too much digression. I believe 
that, as matters stand, a better service will thus have 
been rendered to the cause of history than by the com- 
position of a huge essentially technical work — for which, 
indeed, there is no place in this country. At present, 
apart from the needs of soldiers — which they are better 


qualified to supply than myself — it is not so much 
scientific discussion of the campaign that is required as 
knowledge of its episodes. This I have conscientiously 
endeavoured to supply. 

I have to express my obligations to Mr. F. J. Hudleston, 
of the Staff Library at the War Office, for permission 
to make researches among the works under his charge 
dealing with the campaign, as well as to his assistant, 
Mr. Baldry, for his kind help during my work there. I 
am indebted to Mr. Gordon Home for much invaluable 
assistance, which it is easier to name than to classify, 
since it extends to every part of the book. 

E. F. 



I. The Preliminaries . i 

II. Napoleon's Army and its Generals . . 20 

III. The Russian Army and its Generals . . 41 

IV. The First Stage of the Campaign. Operations 

from Kovno to Vitebsk . . 59 

V. The Operations about Smolensk . . 108 

VI. The Operations in Volhynia and on the Duna 159 

VII. Smolensk to Borodino . . . . 183 

VIII. The Occupation and Destruction of Moscow 220 

IX. The French Sojourn in Moscow . . . 241 

X. The First Stages of the Retreat . . . 263 

XI. The Operations in Napoleon's Rear during 

September and October . . . 286 

XII. The French Retreat. Maloyaroslavetz to 

Orsha . . . . 307 

XIII. Orsha to the Berezina . ... 344 

XIV. Conclusion of the Campaign. Losses and 

Results . . . ... 374 

Appendices A to E . . . . 392 

Bibliography .... 405 

Index . ... 409 









Bad News from Paris 

The Emperor Alexander I of Russia 

Prince Eugene, Son of the ex-Empress Josephine 

Details of the Uniforms of the Infantry of the 
French Army in 1812 . . . , ' 

Marshal Davout ..... 

Prince Joseph Anthony Poniatovvski, Nephew of Stanis 
laus Augustus, the last King of Poland . 

Field-Marshal Prince Barclay de Tolly 

Field-Marshal Prince Golenischev-Kutuzov 

General Prince Bagration, Commander of the Second 
Russian Army in 1812 

Joachim Murat, King of Naples 

The Old Fortifications of Smolensk 

Marshal Oudinot, Duke of Reggio 

The First Battle of Polotsk 

General of Cavalry Count Platov 

Marshal Ney 

Moscow from the Sparrow Hills 

Napoleon's First View of Moscow 

Napoleon Watching the Burning of Moscow 

The Kremlin, Moscow 

Marshal Victor, Duke of Belluno 

The Church of Vasilii Blagorennyi at Moscow 

The Council of War after the Battle of Ma: 
lavetz . 



To face page 










23. Marshal Gouvion St. Cyr 

24. Count Wittgenstein 

To face page 

25. Armed Russian Peasants in Ambush in the Woods wait 

ing to cut off french stragglers 

26. The Retreat of the French from Moscow . 

27. Russian Grenadiers Pursuing the French Army 

28. Napoleon, Berthier, Murat, and Rapp (in the order 

named) round camp fire . ... 

29. General Baron Eble . ... 

30. Crossing the Berezina . . . . 

31. Marshal Ney Supporting the Rear-guard during the 

Retreat from Moscow . ... 

32. Napoleon's Travelling Kitchen 








Plan of Battle of Saltanovka 

„ Smolensk 

„ Lubino 

„ Gorodeczna 

„ Borodino . . folding to face 

„ Vinkovo 

„ Maloyaroslavetz 

„ Polotsk (2nd) 

Order of French Retreat, October 31 
Battle of Viasma 

„ Krasnoi 

Passage of the Berezina 

Battle of Polotsk (1st) . 

Map of Theatre of War, showing positions of opposing forces 
at opening of campaign and movements on both sides up to 
occupation of Moscow . . {folding at end of volume) 

Map of Theatre of War, showing positions of opposing forces 
at the evacuation of Moscow and movements on both sides 
to the end of the campaign . . {folding, at end of volume) 








THE Russian Campaign of 1812 was the last and 
greatest of Napoleon's efforts to impose his 
dominion upon Continental Europe ; and it 
resulted in perhaps the most tremendous overthrow that 
any world-conqueror has ever sustained. A review of 
the immediate causes of the mighty struggle is necessary 
and not without interest, but it is difficult, as one studies 
Napoleon's character, to resist the conclusion that it 
was inevitable. The career of the Corsican adventurer 
whom genius and good fortune had made Emperor of 
France, resembles the fateful development of a Greek 
tragedy. By i8x2_Jiis^j^ide haj_reache3Tit^ Jiejght /, 
Whatever set itself in opposition to his will must be 
trodden under foot. Russia, impelled partly by a 
natural sense of independence, partly by economic 
causes, made up her mind to resist him, and the conse- 
quence was an attack upon her by the tyrant of south-- 
western Europe^ l\j /v h y , c . \^ ^ 

The effects of the Continental system varied in 
different parts of Europe, but everywhere they were 
bad. France, wealthy in herself, and with the 
material advantage of being able to maintain her 
overgrown armies at free quarters in foreign countries, 


felt them least — a fact which probably accounts for 
Napoleon's long continuance in power. Elsewhere the 
pressure was cruel, especially in Sweden, which practically 
depended for economic existence upon her sea-borne 
commerce. Russia, though self-supporting as regards 
food supplies, also suffered materially from the cessation 
of her trade with Great Britain ; and the classes which 
felt the pressure most were those of the nobles and 
merchants, which embodied and voiced such public 
opinion as existed in the country. There was also in 
Russia a healthy sense of independence, coupled with a 
feeling of possessing such strength as made destruction, 
at the hands even of Napoleon, impossible. Such 
opinions were certain to penetrate sooner or later to the 
Tzar and his advisers ; and, in spite of much irresolution 
and diversity of views, they could not fail to exercise 
considerable influence. Besides, the commencement of 
a new independent Poland, in the shape of the Grand 
Duchy of Warsaw, established by Napoleon on the 
western frontier of Russia, was an ever-present source 
of anger and uneasiness. The Grand Duchy was, to all 
intents and purposes, a military camp, a sort of French 
advanced guard against Russia. Within its bounds 
everything was subordinated to military organisation, 
and its large army, organised and trained on French 
principles, and with French aid, was a very real menace. 
Napoleon's political marriage with Maria Louisa of 
Austria, at a moment when he was ostensibly negotiating 
for the hand of Alexander's sister, added to the Tzar's 
sense of his people's sufferings and his empire's danger 
a feeling of personal injury. Next year this was aggra- 
^> vated by Napoleon's abrupt annexation of the coast- 
lands of north-west Germany, including Oldenburg, 
whose ruler was Alexander's brother-in-law. In the 
beginning of 181 1 the Tzar issued a commercial decree 
which virtually prohibited various French imports into 
Russia, and also permitted the import of Colonial goods 


under a neutral flag. The measure must, of course, have 
been under consideration for some time, and Russia's 
financial straits amply account for it, but coming as it 
did on the heels of Alexander's protests against the 
seizure of Oldenburg, it enraged Napoleon. In a letter 
to the King of Wiirttemberg he described it as a declara- 
tion of hostility, and, since any movement in the direction 
of independence inevitably called down his furious wrath, 
he was probably right. 

At the same time these events were scarcely the cause 
of hostilities — they merely hastened them. Whatever 
diplomacy might do, neither Napoleon nor Alexander 
had any belief in the permanence of the truce which had 
been called in 1807. Soon after his second marriage 
Napoleon had observed to Metternich that war with 
Russia was in the nature of things. The retention of 
strong garrisons in the Prussian fortresses on the Oder, 
the steady increase in the forces of the Grand Duchy of 
Warsaw, and the continued occupation of Danzig, 
almost on the Russian frontier, were measures which 
can hardly be regarded as directed otherwise than 
against Russia. Moreover, besides the troops of 
Napoleon's German vassals, an army of 100,000 French- 
men occupied Germany. It is absurd to suggest, in the 
face of all this, that war was forced upon Napoleon by 
Russia — except, of course, in so far as independent 
action of any kind always challenged his hostility. 

Whatever Alexander's personal feelings might be — 
and there is no doubt that he was to some extent 
fascinated by the French Emperor's personality — he 
was gradually forced into the conviction that peace was- 
impossible. In 1810 he appointed as War-Minister 
General Barclay de Tolly, an officer who had greatly 
distinguished himself in the French and Swedish wars ; 
and the reorganisation of the Russian forces was ener- 
getically proceeded with. Count Arakcheiev, Alexander's 
harsh and brutal, but undoubtedly industrious and 



energetic, minister, had already done much, especially 
in the direction of improving the arsenals and reserves 
of arms. Barclay's measures were steadily directed to 
preparing for a war on the western frontier. The country 
was surveyed, roads examined and improved, magazines 
formed, fortifications planned and begun, and, above all, 
troops steadily concentrated. Progress was, however, 
slow. Apart from the backward state of the country as 
a whole, divided counsels in the Imperial Cabinet, the 
poverty of the exchequer, and the strain of the long and 
by no means successful Turkish war, it was necessary to 
proceed cautiously, for fear of provoking Napoleon too 
soon into offensive action. 

The preparations were, in fact, entirely defensive in 
character, and appear very modest beside Napoleon's 
vast armaments and fortifications on territory which 
was not his own. The Russian ministers, indeed, appear 
to have been generally rather over-confident of their 
country's ability to resist a French invasion. Some of 
them, at any rate, wished to take up arms in 181 1, 
counting on the support of Austria and Prussia. They 
pointed out that Napoleon would calculate upon Russia's 
steady weakening owing to loss of trade, and that there- 
fore speedy action was desirable. The Grand Chancellor, 
Count Rumiantzev, was a strong partisan of the French 
alliance. Alexander himself, though determined to stand 
firm against aggression, was not anxious for war, and 
apparently hoped that it might be avoided — as indeed 
it might have been, but for the fact that peace with 
England, which was desired by, and necessary to, Russia, 
implied from Napoleon's standpoint war with France. 
The impression which the Russian Government generally 
conveyed in foreign countries was one of great irresolu- 

This impression was indeed somewhat erroneous. The 
war-party in Russia was by far the larger of the two into 
which public opinion was naturally divided, since it 


included nearly everyone whose interests were adversely 
affected by the Continental system — in other words, the 
majority of the nobles and merchants. It was, however, 
divided, comprising a narrowly patriotic section which 
looked merely to the preservation of Russian territory, 
and another, naturally smaller, consisting of men who 
saw more or less clearly that to ensure European peace 
Napoleon must be not merely repelled, but crushed 
once and for all. The peace-party though small was 
very influential, including the Chancellor Rumiantzev, 
Alexander's own mother, and his brother Constantine. 

Ultimately, of course, everything depended upon the 
character of the Tzar, and this was such as to give the 
friends of France great hopes of being able to influence 
him. Alexander was essentially a dreamer, much under 
the influence of vaguely exalted aspirations which were 
terribly contrasted with the mass of selfishness, luxury, 
and brutality which environed and repelled him. He 
was impulsive rather than calmly and steadily deter- 
mined, and both at Tilsit and Erfurt Napoleon had 
dominated him. Probably he hoped to do so again. 
He was bitterly disappointed, and his vexation in- 
spired the libellous remarks upon Alexander's character 
which occasionally pass for serious history. Alexander I 
was neither a great statesman, a great general, nor a 
hero. He was, as far as we can see him, a kindly and 
well-meaning man, somewhat dreamy and irresolute in 
general, called by an inscrutable providence to rule, 
from the midst of a luxurious Court and through a 
corrupt bureaucracy, a very backward and undeveloped 
realm. He was often shocked by the conditions about 
him, but lacked the moral courage to suppress them. 
But, like many other dreamers, he could at times rise to 
the occasion. He was intellectual enough to act both as 
general and statesman, by no means with discredit in 
either case, and morally elevated enough to play, in 1812, 
something at any rate of the part of a hero. 


Nevertheless, Alexander was naturally slow in finally 
forming his resolution to fight to the death, and the 
causes here detailed made preparations for war also 
tardy. As it was, however, they were quickly detected 
by Napoleon, and used by him as the grounds for diplo- 
matic protests and for pushing forward his own arma- 

Barclay's preparations, in brief, included the increase 
of the number of the regiments of the Russian army, the 
completion to war strength of two battalions per infantry, 
and four squadrons per cavalry, regiment ; the organisa- 
tion of depots to complete the third battalions and fifth 
squadrons with all speed, and the concentration on the 
western frontier of all available forces— ultimately 
including 9 army corps, 2 independent divisions, 5 
reserve cavalry " corps," and 3 corps of irregular horse. 
Information concerning the state of Napoleon's forces, 
especially in Germany and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, 
was carefully collected, and the possible theatre of war 
studied and surveyed. The fortifications carried out had 
a purely defensive character, and cannot be for a moment 
compared with Napoleon's constant provocative prepara- 
tions in Germany and Poland. Riga was fortified, and 
fortifications were projected at Diinaburg, where the St. 
Petersburg- Vilna road crossed the Diina. Other works 
were planned at Borisov on the Berezina, where the 
river is crossed by the Moscow- Warsaw high-road. Kiev, 
the famous old Russian city on the Dnieper, was also 
fortified, as was Bobruisk on the Berezina. A glance at 
the map will show how absolutely defensive these 
fortifications were. Riga is 150 miles from the frontier, 
and all the other places much farther back. As a fact 
some of them were not completed, hardly even begun, 
when war broke out. 

These preparations were due in their inception to 
Barclay, but there were others which were inspired by 
the unpractical advisers immediately about the Tzar. 


Wellington's Torres Vedras campaign had made a great 
sensation in Europe, and General Phull, Alexander's 
Prussian instructor and adviser, had projected a great 
entrenched camp at Drissa, a town that was literally 
nowhere. It covered nothing ; it was hardly even 
tactically well placed. It is a striking indication of the 
confusion in the Russian councils that, practically behind 
the back of the War-Minister who was nominally respon- 
sible for military preparations, a vast amount of time 
and labour was wasted on this pretentious and un- 
profitable camp of refuge. In a sentence, Drissa was 
absolutely useless. Yet the man who conceived this 
almost childish idea of drawing Napoleon against his will 
upon an arbitrarily placed entrenchment, and inducing 
him to waste time and lives before it, passed for a scien- 
tific soldier ! The amount of time and labour expended 
on Drissa rendered all the other works slow in con- 
struction, and Diinaburg was hardly commenced when 
the war broke out. 

Napoleon's preparations were naturally influenced by 
no chimerical ideas — except in so far as he appeared 
inclined to renew in 181 1 his old plan of an invasion by 
sea of England ! All through 1810 and 181 1 the arming 
and strengthening of German and Polish fortresses was 
continued, and the bulk of the disposable French troops 
were collected in three so-called corps of observation in 
the northern provinces and in Germany. They numbered 
some 200,000 men. From Italy he could draw about 
50,000 French and Italian troops. The contingents 
of his German vassals numbered nearly 130,000. The 
Grand Duchy of Warsaw could furnish some 50,000. 
Prussia was practically helpless, and Napoleon imposed 
upon her a treaty of alliance which required her to 
furnish 20,000 men, and subjected her to wholesale 
plunder by the Grande Armee on its passage through 
her territories. Napoleon was to make such requisitions 
as he pleased, and payment was to be arranged for them 


later ! The misery caused, however, unfortunately for 
him, did not destroy Prussia, and only added to the 
heavy debt of vengeance soon to be paid. For the 
moment, however, Prussia had reached the depths of 
humiliation. Austria, though sorely humbled and dis- 
tressed, was in a far more independent position ; and 
Metternich's address succeeded in concluding a treaty by 
which Austria was to be indemnified for any territorial 
losses that she might sustain by a reconstitution of 
Poland, and should furnish an auxiliary corps of about 
30,000 men. There was, of course, no guarantee that 
Napoleon would keep the first condition, and in all 
probability he would never have done so had the con- 
templated events come to pass ; but that he consented to 
it, even nominally, indicates that he was anxious to 
conciliate Austria. Austria, on her side, furnished to the 
Grande Armee some 40,000 men in all. 

Having completed these arrangements Austria and 
Prussia promptly communicated them to Russia ! 
Despite the grim seriousness of the situation, and the 
terrible drama which was soon to be acted, it is difficult 
not to see that Napoleon's position was a somewhat 
ludicrous one. Austria gave Alexander full assurances 
that no attack should be made upon Russia by any but 
the auxiliary corps, and communicated to him the secret 
orders given to the troops in Galicia and Transylvania ! 

Poland — or the fraction of it represented by the Grand 
Duchy of Warsaw — was, naturally and necessarily, heart 
and soul with Napoleon. France had always been the 
model to which the Poles looked up ; and since the 
Partition they regarded France as their natural helper. 
They had fought in the French ranks in large numbers 
during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, and 
there was undoubtedly much sympathy of a kind felt for 
them in France. Farther than this feeling did not go. 
The chivalry with which the French national character is 
credited by its admirers certainly does not appear in 


history. French diplomatic annals are to the full as 
soiled as those of other countries, and French soldiers 
have usually been ruthless interpreters or breakers of 
the rules of war. And most certainly the natural instincts 
of the French people are essentially material. In so far 
as Poland was useful to France, France was very ready 
to sympathise with her. Otherwise the general opinion 
of the Poles, later expressed by the poet Gaszinski, is 
that they have obtained from France only tears ! 

Napoleon was, of course, fully alive to the advantages 
to be reaped from Polish enthusiasm and aspirations. 
Besides the army of Warsaw he brought up to the front 
all his own Polish regiments so as to give his operations 
as far as possible the appearance of a war for the restora- 
tion of Polish independence. Eventually in 1812 he 
sent De Pradt to Warsaw to organise the movement 
against Russia. He gave him detailed instructions as to 
how he was to carry out his orders, and it is hardly 
possible to read them without feelings of indignation 
against the man who ruthlessly traded upon the aspira- 
tions of a brave and patriotic people, and of pity for the 
people themselves. The ambassador himself was very 
conscious of the ignominious part which he was called 
upon to play. To all appearance he did his work well ; 
certainly the poverty-stricken and requisition-wasted 
Grand Duchy raised a very large force for the campaign. 
Napoleon, however, chose later to be dissatisfied ; and 
at St. Helena violently attacked De Pradt, as a chief 
cause of his defeat — a statement which may fairly be 
included in the mass of falsehoods which Napoleon 
emitted during his captivity. 

On January 27th, 181 2, Napoleon issued to his German 
vassals a declaration of his complaints against Russia, 
and required them to have their contingents ready by 
the 15th of February. The Army of Italy was ordered 
to march into Germany, and the King of Bavaria to 
clear the roads of snow and to supply it during its march 


through his territory. The troops were to live at free 
quarters ; if they were not supplied with all that they 
required they were to take it ! Anyone insulting a French 
soldier was to be court-martialled, and the sentences 
of prejudiced and often brutalised judges may be imagined. 
It is, of course, needless to add that both these orders 
were suppressed by the editors of Napoleon's corre- 
spondence. In order to extract additional supplies the 
Army of Italy was stated at 80,000 strong, its actual 
numbers being about 45,000. When Napoleon's allies 
were thus oppressed, one may imagine the misery in 
Prussia, which was treated as a conquered country. 

All this time Napoleon and Alexander were negotiating, 
though with small chance of a peaceful result. Alexander 
desired peace, but would not surrender his independence : 
Napoleon required" complete submission. Alexander sent 
his aide-de-camp, Colonel Chernishev, on a special 
mission to Paris, while at St. Petersburg the French 
Ambassador, Caulaincourt, was replaced by General 
Lauriston. Early in 1812 Napoleon induced the King of 
Prussia to send a special envoy to St. Petersburg, with 
the suggestion that Alexander might make fresh pro- 
posals. Alexander made a dignified reply : he had, he 
said, shown his strong desire for peace by keeping silent 
upon the subject of Napoleon's annexations : at the 
same time he was willing to hear what explanations 
France might have to offer. None were made, and 
French troops continued to flood across Germany. 
Napoleon believed that the Russian preparations were 
more advanced than they actually were — this is fairly 
apparent from his military correspondence — and was 
anxious to gain time. In April Alexander sent to Prince 
Kurakin, his ambassador at Paris, final instructions. 
He was to propose that Prussia be fully evacuated by 
the French, thus leaving a neutral space between the 
contending powers. Russia would then be ready to 
satisfy France — or Napoleon — on commercial questions. 


It can hardly be doubted that, come what might, 
Alexander did not intend entirely to return to the 
Continental system, and so far Napoleon was probably 
right in deeming the proposal a diplomatic move to gain 
time. He made no reply, but despatched Count Narbonne 
on a shadowy mission to Alexander at Vilna, and kept 
Kurakin, with studied insolence, waiting. The am- 
bassador pressed repeatedly for a reply, but received 
none until nearly three weeks later. Then he was merely 
asked if he had full powers to treat ! He rightly regarded 
such treatment as a gratuitous insult, and demanded his 
passports. Narbonne's mission naturally led to nothing, 
except that he obtained a better idea than Napoleon of 
the stern determination of the erstwhile soft and yielding 

Alexander, on his side, was endeavouring to free his 
hands for the approaching struggle. The result of the 
Treaty of Tilsit had been the long and harassing war 
with Turkey ; and Russia paid dearly for the blunder 
into which Napoleon's blandishments had led her. 
Negotiations for peace were very slow, and steadily 
opposed and hampered by the French ambassador at 
Constantinople. Peace was not signed at Bukharest 
until May, 1812, and even then French influence was still 
so powerful that there was fear that it would be broken 
by Turkey. It was not until August that the bulk of the 
Army of the Danube at last started from Bukharest 
under Admiral Chichagov, and by that time Napoleon 
was already on the line of the Diina and the Dnieper. 
As it happened the delay was fortunate for Russia, but. 
it might easily have been fatal. 

Yet more important to Russia than peace with the 
Osmanli Empire was peace with Great Britain, but in 
order to keep the gate of conciliation open for Napoleon 
until the last moment formal negotiations were not 
commenced until April, 181 2. In point of fact, though 
the two powers were nominally at war, and the British 


fleet was blockading the Russian ports, there was a very 
good feeling between them. Through the Spanish envoy 
Zea Bermudez, Lord Wellesley had in 181 1 assured 
Alexander that Britain was not really hostile, and 
Alexander in turn had promised Bermudez that he 
would keep his troops on the Polish frontier, so as to 
ensure that the suspicious French Emperor would not 
move more troops from Germany into Spain. Admiral 
de Saumarez, the fine seaman and excellent diplomatist 
who commanded the British Baltic fleet, handled the 
situation with unerring tact and skill, and effectively 
ensured the doing of nothing which might destroy the 
comparatively friendly relations which subsisted between 
the two nominally hostile states. All this is doubly 
interesting, as proving the hopelessly fragile basis upon 
which Napoleon's European domination rested. 

Russia's first overtures were somewhat clumsy and 
exorbitant in their demands. They suggested that since 
Russia was obviously about to render vital services to 
the common cause Britain should take over a loan of 
nearly £4,000,000 just raised by her. The refusal of 
the British Government to accede to this demand, in 
itself not inexcusable, but failing to recognise Britain's 
own difficulties and the services which she was rendering, 
rather dashed the Russian Government, and the formal 
alliance was not concluded until July. 

Finally, it may be noted that Napoleon, before enter- 
ing upon hostilities, went through the time-honoured 
farce of making overtures of peace to Britain. It was 
purely a diplomatic move, and certainly not seriously 
intended, nor did the British Government regard it as 
being so. Britain was more confident than she had been 
for a long time. The French offensive in the Peninsula 
had very definitely reached its limit, and Wellington, by 
his capture of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, had taken 
the first steps in the great counter-attack which was 
eventually to roll the French back over the Pyrenees. 


Calm observers like Foy saw that the turn of the tide 
had come. It may be regarded as certain that terms of 
peace less unfavourable than those which Napoleon 
offered would hardly have been accepted. 

Sweden, under the direction of Napoleon's old enemy 
and restive servant, Bernadotte, also allied herself with 
Russia in April — an act immediately brought about 
by Napoleon's arrogant seizure of Swedish Pomerania, 
but perhaps in the end inevitable. Sweden, however, 
partly owing to poverty, partly because of Britain's 
unwillingness to abet Bernadotte's designs on Norway, 
took no active share in the Continental war until 1813 ; 
but Russia was enabled to withdraw most of her troops 
from Finland for service against Napoleon. 

Meanwhile the French and Russian preparations for 
war were actively pursued, though more rapidly and 
effectively by Napoleon than by his antagonist, who had 
to contend with far greater difficulties. On February 8th 
Napoleon ordered Prince Eugene with the Army of Italy 
and the Bavarians to advance upon Glogau, where they 
would arrive about April 1st. Davout's six divisions 
were advanced stage by stage from the Elbe to the 
Vistula, while the 2nd Corps (Oudinot) and the 3rd (Ney) 
followed in support. The Poles (5th Corps) were concen- 
trated on the Vistula about Warsaw, Modlin and Plock ; 
and the Saxons (7th Corps) and Westphalians (8th Corps) 
directed also upon Warsaw. Two corps of cavalry 
reserves — 22,000 lances and sabres — and gunners of horse 
artillery were in the north ; a third, 10,000 strong, with 
Eugene ; and a fourth, not yet completely formed, was 
to accompany the 5th, 7th and 8th Corps. The Prussian 
contingent was assembling at Konigsberg, the Austrian 
at Lemberg. Finally the Imperial Guard, horse and 
foot, was advancing from Paris to form the general 
reserve. Over and above all these formations, which 
composed the actual army of invasion, various reserve 
divisions, French, Polish and German, were being 


organised, some of which were later combined into a 
9th Army Corps under Marshal Victor. The refractory 
conscripts, who were being trained in their island prison- 
camps, were formed into fresh regiments of infantry. 
The conscripts of the year, who were collecting at the 
depots, were organised as soon as sufficiently trained into 
Regiments de Marche which were pushed forward into 
and through Germany to feed the fighting line. Out 
of these an nth Corps was formed, the composition of 
which was constantly changing as the advanced troops 
were pushed across the Russian frontier, to be replaced 
by others at the rearward stages, while these were in 
their turn relieved by new conscripts from France. A 
division of King Joachim's Neapolitans was marching 
from Italy to form part of this great reserve corps. The 
King of Denmark also, at Napoleon's request, concen- 
trated a division of 10,000 troops in Holstein. Napoleon 
did not believe that Britain could seriously molest his 
rear owing to her preoccupation with the Peninsular 
War, but he took no risks. In March, 1812, a Senatus- 
Consultum formed the entire male population of the 
empire into three bans, and of the first ban, comprising 
men from twenty to twenty-six years of age, a hundred 
battalions or " cohorts " were immediately called out 
for home defence. They actually produced a force of 
about 80,000 men, who by June had received a fair amount 
of training. Apart from them there were left for the de- 
fence of the empire 2 regiments of the Young Guard, 24 line 
battalions in 8 regiments of infantry, 8 foreign battalions, 
8 squadrons of cavalry and 48 batteries of artillery. 
There were also 156 3rd, 4th and 5th battalions of regi- 
ments already on foreign service, the seamen, marines, 
coast-guards and veterans, and finally the depots of the 
whole army. 

At the beginning of 1812, when Napoleon was pre- 
paring to concentrate on the Oder, the Russian forces, 
exclusive of the isolated armies of Turkey and Finland, 


lay dispersed in cantonments from Courland to Podolia, 
over a line of some six hundred miles. During March and 
April, as the French offensive on the Vistula became 
pronounced, Alexander drew in his scattered forces and 
organised them in two armies, calling up reinforcements 
from the Turkish frontier. The first army, under the 
War-Minister Barclay de Tolly, had its head-quarters at 
Vilna. The second, commanded by the fiery Georgian 
Prince Peter Bagration, was cantoned about Lutsk. 
Napoleon interpreted this to mean that Russia intended 
to invade the Grand Duchy of Warsaw with Bagration' s 
army, while Barclay covered the road to St. Petersburg. 
It is indeed probable, if not certain, that had their prepara- 
tions been more forward the Russians would have at- 
tempted something of the kind ; Bagration was eager 
to advance on Warsaw. The plans discussed at the 
Russian head-quarters all appear to be based upon the 
the hypothesis of being able to meet the French near the 
frontier on fairly equal terms. Napoleon's overwhelming 
strength was not yet appreciated. 

On April 17th Napoleon wrote to Davout, laying down 
the plan of action which he proposed in view of a Russian 
advance on Warsaw. The 60,000 men of the Saxon and 
Polish armies would, if possible, hold the line of the 
Vistula about Warsaw, but if overmatched must retreat 
on Glogau, where Davout would be able to come into 
line with them, while the main body of the Grand Army 
came up to the relief in two columns. He showed his 
confidence in his lieutenant by inviting him to examine 
and criticise the proposed plan. 

At this date the French forces were approximately 
stationed as follows, left to right. The Prussians were 
about Konigsberg, and Davout 's six infantry divisions 
and a cavalry corps between Danzig and Thorn, all these 
forming what General Bonnal calls the Strategic Ad- 
vanced Guard, under Davout. The 5th Corps was 
between Plock and Warsaw, the 7th Corps near Kalisch, 


140 miles west of Warsaw, the 8th Corps between Glogau 
and Kalisch. The Bavarians (6th Corps) were marching 
from Glogau to Posen ; the Army of Italy (4th Corps) was 
spread out over 100 miles of road in rear of Glogau ; Ney 
was with the 3rd Corps about Frankfort on the Oder, 
eighty miles north-west of Glogau, and Oudinot with the 
2nd about Berlin. As Bagration at Lutsk was some 250 
miles from Warsaw, a study of the map will show that an 
offensive movement on his part could be opposed by at 
least equal numbers (the 5 th, 7th and 8th Corps) in any 
case, apart from the 4th and 6th, which could be diverted 
on Warsaw, while a mass of over 200,000 men (Davout, 
Prussians, 2nd Corps, 3rd Corps and 2 cavalry corps) 
could oppose Barclay, besides the Guard. 

Towards the end of April Napoleon obtained fairly 
accurate information of the Russian emplacements. Six 
Army Corps and 3 divisions of reserve cavalry were 
extended from near Shavli in Courland to Slonim in 
Lithuania — a distance of nearly 250 miles. At Lutsk, 
over 200 miles from Slonim, and separated from it by the 
huge barrier of the Pinsk Marshes, were 2 Corps under 
Bagration, while slowly converging upon Lutsk were 5 
divisions of infantry and 2 of cavalry. He could there- 
fore calculate with sufficient certainty that his strategic 
deployment along the Vistula would not be interrupted. 
By May 15th the bulk of his forces were on the Vistula 
from Danzig to Warsaw. The Prussians were at Konigs- 
berg, the Austrians at Lemberg, the 4th Corps in reserve 
at Kalisch, the Imperial Guards marching in detach- 
ments across Germany. The whole mass, exclusive of 
non-combatants, amounted to nearly 450,000 men, of 
whom 80,000 were cavalry. It had with it, including its 
reserve parks, 1146 guns and howitzers, nearly 200,000 
horses and draft animals, and probably 25,000 vehicles. 

The extent of the suffering entailed by the passage of 
this gigantic host through Germany may be imagined. 
The mere supplying it with food was enough to exhaust 


the country, but it was but a part of what had to be 
endured. The peasants were robbed of horses, vehicles 
and implements for the service of the troops, and forced 
themselves to accompany the columns to drive their 
carts laden with baggage or their own plundered crops. 
Honourable men in the French army saw such proceed- 
ings with shame and regret. De Fezensac tells with ill- 
suppressed indignation how he met German peasants 
fifty leagues from their homes acting as baggage drivers, 
and adds that they were fortunate if they reached their 
villages in a state of beggary. Testimony such as this 
is invaluable and damning. Organised plunder was 
rampant, and the French officers, brutalised and morally 
degraded by years of war maintaining war, were reckless 
of the misery inflicted. The Prussian official Schon tells 
how Davout, on entering Gumbinnen and finding supplies 
in his opinion not adequate, owing to the abject poverty 
to which Prussia had been reduced, coolly ordered his 
troops to pillage the town ! The 1st Corps was the best 
administered in the army ; and Davout is commonly 
held up to admiration by French writers as the pattern of 
honour and loyalty. But his execution of orders was 
commonly ruthless, and there were in Napoleon's army 
but too many officers who lacked even Davout's very 
limited sense of honour. Davout would sack a town 
remorselessly, as readily as Suchet massacred women and 
children at Lerida ; but Suchet would hang a man who 
committed murder, and Davout, while subjecting people 
to every kind of officially ordered oppression, would 
sternly check private plunder or outrage. But other 
generals were less strict, and the bad characters who are 
found in every army had opportunities of committing all 
kinds of outrages. Napoleon himself at last complained 
of the misconduct of Ney's 3rd Corps. Ney was a worse 
disciplinarian than Davout, though a humane and 
kindly tempered man, but neither Ney nor Davout can 
really be blamed. The troops, by Napoleon's order, were 


to be supplied at the expense of the country, and the 
usual discipline of the French army was so shattered by 
years of organised brigandage that the rest naturally 
followed. The terrible misery inflicted upon Germany and 
other countries by Napoleonic warfare may be studied at 
length in reports and despatches, and furnishes a very grim 
commentary upon the moral value of military discipline. 

Napoleon left Paris on the 9th of May, accompanied 
by the Empress, and reached Dresden on the 16th, where 
all his unwilling or willing allies and vassals were gathered to 
meet him. The details of his stay — how kings waited in his 
antechamber, how he made presents to them, how queens 
waited upon Maria Louisa — need not be repeated. The 
episode was a memorable example of pride preceding a fall. 

Napoleon was not impatient. He had already told 
Davout that he should not commence operations until 
the grass had grown in order that he might therewith 
supplement his stores of forage ; and he did not leave 
Dresden until the 30th of May. On that day the whole 
army was concentrated between Konigsberg and Warsaw ; 
the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th Corps were all in line, and the 
Guard was collecting at Posen. Napoleon in his orders 
for the advance on the Niemen, on May 26th, contemplates 
the army as three masses : the right, consisting of the 5th, 
7th and 8th Corps, under Jerome ; the centre, of the 4th 
and 6th, under Eugene ; and the left, of the Guard, the 
1st, 2nd and 3rd, and the new 10th Corps (Davout's 
foreign division and the Prussians) which he would 
conduct in person. Two Reserve Cavalry Corps were 
allotted to the left, one to the centre, and one to the right. 

Meanwhile, on the Russian side, the Emperor Alexander 
had arrived at Vilna on April 26th. As Emperor he 
nominally had the chief command, but unfortunately 
his motley following of German princes and relatives, 
military adventurers and theorists, had much more to 
suggest than the harassed sovereign, who must at times 
have been almost in despair at being called upon to 

A. Rischgitz 


Son of the ex-Empress Josephine, Viceroy of Italy, and Commander of the 
4th French Army Corps 

From the picture by Scheffer at Versailles 


decide between them. There were lengthy discussions 
and much drafting of strategic schemes, few of them at 
all applicable to the situation and resulting in little but 
waste of time. Barclay was practically superseded by 
the Emperor's following, and being naturally a man of 
diffident and retiring nature, and unused to supreme 
command, he did not sufficiently assert himself. Among 
the officers who appeared in Alexander's suite was old 
General Bennigsen, who had commanded not without 
credit against Napoleon in 1807, and probably hoped to 
induce the Tzar to give him an important command. 

By the beginning of June it was becoming clear that 
Napoleon's attack would be delivered across the Niemen. 
Bagration was thereupon ordered to leave a corps, under 
General Tormazov, to defend Volhynia against the 
Austrians about Lemberg, and to march with the 7th 
and 8th Corps through the Pinsk Marshes to Pruzhani. 
This movement appears to have escaped Napoleon until 
the last. As the French continued to advance, inclining 
more and more to the left, and pushing forward in dense 
masses into the north-east corner of Prussia, Bagration 
moved on to Volkovisk, about 100 miles south-south- 
west of Vilna, Napoleon believing him to be still at 
Lutsk and Brest-Litovsk. 

Thus in the early days of June all was prepared for 
the opening of the grand drama. The hostile armies 
faced each other on a front of about 170 miles, with a 
distance of from 100 to 200 miles separating their main 
masses. Considerably to the southward, the Austrians, 
under Prince Schwarzenberg, and the army of General 
Tormazov confronted each other on the Galician frontier, 
and would evidently fight an independent contest. On 
May 30th Napoleon left Dresden for the front, and with 
his arrival at Gumbinnen on June 17th, after a detour 
by Thorn, Danzig and Konigsberg in order to inspect the 
depots at those places, the campaign may be said to have 
definitely commenced. 


THE army with which Napoleon invaded Russia 
in 1812 was the largest which he had yet com- 
manded, and almost certainly the largest that 
had ever been gathered for the purposes of a campaign 
under the leadership of a single man. None the less 
it was too small for its task, and when, on August 23rd, 
Napoleon left Smolensk on the last stage of the advance 
on Moscow, his communications were already inade- 
quately guarded. A greater defect was its lack of 
homogeneity. Even in the nominally French regiments 
which formed the core of the vast host there were great 
numbers of troops drawn from the German, Dutch, 
Flemish and Italian provinces of the Empire. Round 
this nucleus were ranged masses of allies from almost 
every country in southern and western Europe. 

The French Imperial Army in 1812 contained 107 
regiments of infantry of the line and 31 of light infantry — 
138 in all. According to numeration there should have 
been 164, but 26 had disappeared from the roll for various 
reasons. During 1812 several new regiments were 
formed, chiefly from the consents refractaires — men 
who had endeavoured to escape the remorseless con- 
scription, and were confined and trained in special remote 

An infantry regiment comprised 1 depot battalion 
and from 2 to 5 field battalions, each of 6 companies of 
140 officers and men. One company consisted of 
Grenadiers and 1 of Voltigeurs ; the former were chosen 



for height and strength, the latter, whose duties were those 
of skirmishers, for activity. All were, however, armed 
with the flintlock musket, though that of the Voltigeurs 
was of a lighter and improved pattern. Voltigeur 
sergeants carried a special carabine. Sappers were armed 
with a mousqueton or carbine. All these weapons were 
fitted with a triangular bayonet. Fire training was 
frequently of a very elementary character. The number 
of cartridges carried on the person was from 50 to 60. 

Non-commissioned officers, Grenadiers and Sappers, 
were provided with a short sabre (sabre-bricquet) in 
addition to their fire-arms. Musicians also were armed 
with swords. 

The total weight carried on the march, including 
weapons, ammunition, rations, kit, and share of camping 
essentials, was about 50 English pounds. 

The line cavalry comprised 16 regiments of Cuirassiers 
and Carabiniers, 24 of Dragoons, 28 of Chasseurs-d- 
cheval, 11 of Hussars, and 9 of Chevau-leger s. The last 
were special regiments designed to accompany the heavy 
Cuirassiers, who were ill adapted for performing scouting 
and outpost duty. Each cavalry regiment had, as a rule, 
1 depot squadron and 4 field squadrons, each of 2 com- 
panies of 125 officers and men, or a total of 1000 sabres. 
Chevau-leger regiments appear to have had only 3 field 

Cuirassiers were protected by steel helmets and cuirasses. 
The cuirass covered both back and breast, and weighed 
about 15 pounds. The breastplate was theoretically 
bullet-proof at a range of 40 metres, and really seems 
to have afforded fairly adequate protection, judging from 
the small proportion of killed and wounded among the 
cuirassier officers disabled at Borodino. Cuirassiers were 
armed with a long, straight sword and a pair of pistols. 
Dragoons carried in addition a carbine. Chasseurs-d- 
cheval and Hussars had carbine, pistol and a curved sabre. 
In the Chevau-leger regiments two-thirds of the troopers 


were armed with lance, sabre and one pistol ; the 
remainder had, in place of the lance, a carbine in order 
to perform skirmishing and outpost duties. 

The cavalry was largely mounted upon horses of 
German breed ; but even so the supply was hardly 
adequate. Besides, many of the horses were too young, 
and the hardships of the war destroyed them at a rate 
which was steadily on the increase. The pace of the 
charges was never the wild gallop familiar to us from 
many a spirited but inaccurate painting. A trot was 
the best that Cuirassiers could usually do, and light 
cavalry was often little faster. 

It has become a kind of legend that Napoleon's artillery 
was always his strongest arm, but this was by no means 
the case. In his earlier campaigns he was weak in 
artillery ; in 1805 and 1806 he had but 5 guns to 3000 
men. It is true that his gunners were generally better 
trained than their opponents ; but at Eylau at any rate 
this hardly compensated for numerical inferiority, the 
French having only some 250 guns to oppose to 460 
Russian pieces. At Aspern, again, Napoleon put only 
some 200 guns into the field against more than 300 
admirably served Austrian cannon. His infantry also 
was evidently deteriorating in quality, and needed the 
moral as well as the physical support of powerful batteries. 
In and after 1809, therefore, Napoleon greatly augmented 
his field artillery. He also revived a practice of very 
doubtful utility in attaching to each regiment of infantry 
2 or 4 light guns, served by a detachment of regimental 
gunners. The experiment had very qualified success ; 
corps commanders were inclined to regard the regimental 
artillery as a mere nuisance. It would surely have been 
better to attach batteries of regular artillery to the 

There were 9 22-company regiments of foot artillery, 
43 companies of horse artillery in 6 regiments, and 27 
6-company battalions of artillery train. The company of 


foot artillery consisted of 120 officers and men, that of 
horse artillery of 100. A battery consisted of a com- 
pany of artillery and a company or half-company of 

The field and horse artillery was armed with 12- and 
6-pounder guns and 32- and 24-pounder howitzers. 
There were also some 4-pounders. A battery usually 
contained 4 or 6 guns and 2 howitzers. The regimental 
guns were light 3-pounders. 

The quality of the artillery was high. Many of its 
officers had made a scientific study of their profession ; 
and the force as a whole was highly trained. The material 
was good, but British officers considered it much inferior 
to that of their own army. Manoeuvring was for the 
foot artillery a slow process, and for the rapid formation 
of his great preparatory batteries Napoleon was generally 
obliged to rely upon the horse artillery. 

The technical troops were sufficient in number, 
admirable in quality, and directed by scientific officers. 
AH through the Napoleonic wars the engineers did 
splendid service, and never was their skill and devotion 
more evident than in Russia. The construction and 
maintenance of the bridges of the Berezina, amid every 
kind of misery and disadvantage, is perhaps the fairest 
leaf on the crown of the French engineers. 

Napoleon, realising that in thinly peopled Russia he 
could not wage war as in Germany, had made great 
exertions to organise a transport service, especially for 
the conveyance of food supplies. There were 26 battalions. 
Most of these had each 252 four-horsed waggons, each 
waggon with a load of 1500 kilogrammes. Four of them 
had 600 light carts, each with a load of 600 kilogrammes' ; 
and 4 were supplied each with 600 ox-waggons with a 
capacity of 1000 kilogrammes. The oxen were later to 
be killed and eaten — a foolish idea, which it is needless 
to say could not be carried out. Overworked draft 
cattle cannot be used for food. In practice the transport 


broke down hopelessly. Despite ruthless plundering in 
Prussia it was short of draft beasts from the outset. So, 
too, was the artillery, and it may be imagined that when 
horses were found the latter appropriated them as a 
matter of course. Forage was scarce. Finally there were 
hardly any roads which would bear the weight of the 
trains. They soon fell far to the rear, and from the first 
there was a shortage of supplies at the front. 

Distinct from the army as a whole was the Imperial 
Guard. The inception of this force dated from 1800, 
when Napoleon formed a " Consular Guard " of 2 infantry 
and 2 cavalry regiments, selected from men who had 
served four campaigns. In 1806 and 1807 fresh regiments 
were raised on the same principle, and then numerous 
battalions of picked recruits. When Holland was in- 
corporated in the Empire the Dutch Guards were also 

The Old Guard comprised 3 regiments of Grenadiers 
(1 Dutch) and 2 of Chasseurs. The infantry of the New 
or Young Guard included 1 regiment of " Fusilier- 
Grenadiers " and 1 of " Fusilier-Chasseurs," formed in 
1806, 6 regiments of Tirailleurs (Sharpshooters) , 7 of Volti- 
geurs, and 1 of " Flanqueurs-Chasseurs." The last was 
a new regiment. The Voltigeurs and Tirailleurs had for 
the most part served two campaigns in Spain, and were 
seasoned troops. The 2nd and 3rd regiments of each arm 
remained in Spain, and the 7th Voltigeurs in France. All 
the other regiments went to Russia. They formed one 
division of the Old Guard and two of the Young Guard. 
The " Legion of the Vistula " — 3 regiments of veteran 
Polish troops — was attached to the Guard on entering 
Russia. All Guard infantry regiments consisted of 2 
field battalions, generally weaker than line units. 

The cavalry included the two original regiments of 
the old Consular Guard, the Chasseurs-a-cheval and the 
Grenadiers-a-cheval, and a Dragoon regiment. These 
were French. There were also 2 Lancer regiments, 1 


Dutch, 1 Polish. Guard cavalry regiments had 5 field 
squadrons. There were 2 squadrons of Gendarmerie 
d' Elite, and the celebrated Mameluke company — a troop 
of Oriental cavaliers. 

The artillery of the Guard consisted of 10 foot and 4 
horse artillery companies with their train. In August, 
1812, the foot batteries were armed (apparently) with 
32 4-pounder guns, 18 6-pounders, 24 12-pounders, and 
14 32- and 24-pounder howitzers ; the horse batteries 
with 16 6-pounder guns and 8 24-pounder howitzers. 
The Guard also possessed its own service of engineers, 
and eight companies of seaman for work on coasts or 
inland waters. 

The pay of the Guards was higher than that of the 
troops of the line, and non-commissioned officers ranked 
with line subalterns. The Guards were envied and 
disliked by the line troops, who regarded them as a 
pampered corps. Napoleon certainly nursed them as 
far as possible, and in 1812 they were only in action, as a 
body, on a single occasion. The idea that they were the 
deciding factor in all Napoleon's great victories is without 

Marshal Berthier, as Prince of Neufchatel, was attended 
at head-quarters by a battalion of Guards raised in his 
own principality ; and a troop of specially selected 
horsemen formed Napoleon's personal escort. During 
the campaign a battalion of Hesse-Darmstadt Guards, 
under Prince Emil, and a regiment of Portuguese light 
cavalry were also attached to head-quarters. 

The higher organisation of the army was by brigades, 
divisions, and army corps of infantry or cavalry as the. 
case might be. The strength of these units varied greatly. 
A brigade of infantry often consisted of a single large 
regiment ; and divisions varied in the number of their 
battalions from 6 to 22. Compans' division of Davout's 
corps was equal in strength to the two Westphalian 
divisions taken together. The army corps also varied 


much in strength, owing to Napoleon's reasonable 
practice of entrusting specially talented generals with 
greater numbers than less able officers. The 1st Corps 
of the Grand Army in 1812 consisted of five large divisions, 
and totalled some 72,000 men ; while the entire West- 
phalian Corps counted only 18,000. 

The science of clothing soldiers simply and sensibly 
is so little understood even to-day that it can hardly be 
sought in 1812. There was less of polish and pipeclay 
in the French army than in that of Great Britain ; but 
the uniforms were frequently as comfortless and awkward 
as they well could be. One wonders how the men could 
march and fight in them. The headgear was often 
especially clumsy and absurd. To deal with the many 
types of uniform would need a separate work. The 
infantry were generally attired in the blue uniform coat 
which had replaced the Bourbon white at the Revolution. 
Cuirassiers wore blue ; Dragoons green ; Chasseurs and 
Hussars green, with facings of every colour. In general 
it seems that there was a good deal of rather tawdry display 
about the uniforms of Napoleon's soldiers. Love of 
ostentation appears to be so deeply emplanted in the 
French character that at this day the abolition of the 
old glaring uniforms has been much delayed. 

The soldier's daily rations consisted of, roughly, 28 
ounces of bread, 4 ounces of vegetables or 2 of rice, 10 
ounces of meat, and beer or wine according to the country. 
French soldiers, with their national genius for cookery, 
were adepts at making themselves comfortable ; and 
when rations were regularly distributed they fared well 
enough. But Napoleon's system of subsisting his armies 
on the country would not work in Russia. Even in 
Germany in 1806, and still more in 1813, the troops were 
often in dire distress for food. In 1812 almost from the 
first it was impossible to keep up any regular distribution 
of rations. The soldiers were reduced to marauding for 
supplies, but in a poor country they were often not 



£ 1 
* & * 

K § ■"& 










^ fts 




procurable, and the unfortunate men early began to 
feel the pinch of want. Napoleon did his best. He 
ordered the construction of bakeries at every halting- 
place ; but orders can effect little without materials, and 
the latter were frequently lacking. The rye of Russia, 
also, did not suit the stomachs of men accustomed to 
flour ground from other grains ; and the quality both of 
flour and bread was generally bad. Herds of beef-cattle 
were driven with the army, but their flesh rapidly 
deteriorated under the effects of bad fodder and fatigue. 
Generally speaking, the periods when the Grand Army 
was not living from hand to mouth were few, even on the 
advance. During the retreat it was half-starved at best. 

In the disorganisation of the transport the hospital 
service fared badly. There was a fairly adequate staff of 
surgeons and medical officers ; but their efforts — often 
devoted and persevering in the highest degree — could 
effect little when supplies of every kind were lacking. 
On the outward route, no less than the return, men 
died in thousands by the roadsides, uncared for and 
unnoticed. Nearly half the Bavarian Corps died or was 
invalided without seeing an enemy. The hospitals were 
inadequate and badly equipped from the outset ; later 
on their condition became too frightful for words. All 
whom ill-fortune or duty brought into contact with 
them describe them in terms of horror. They eventually 
became mere charnel-houses, in which men were left to 
perish in thousands of every kind of misery. 

The French army in 1812 was undoubtedly, from the 
military standpoint, the best organised in Europe ; but 
its officers, as a whole, left much to be desired. The 
rapid increase of the numbers of the rank and file since 
1806 had involved the improvisation of thousands of 
officers, often from doubtful material. The best of the 
regimental officers were those who united education to 
practical experience, but they were relatively few in 
number. The cadets of the military school were admirable 


material, but naturally lacked experience and, as De 
Fezensac adds, the physical strength which was so 
necessary. But besides those classes of educated officers 
there was a third composed of promoted sergeants, whose 
education was, as a rule, elementary. One of them, the 
worthy Staff-Captain Coignet, tells us in his delightful 
autobiography that he did not learn to write until he 
was thirty-three years of age ! He was, indeed, a man of 
much natural sagacity, and keenly regretted his deficien- 
cies ; but it is obvious that these illiterate men can 
scarcely have made good company officers. The officers 
of the artillery and engineers were indeed generally 
excellent ; but many of those of the cavalry, though 
dashing leaders on the field, possessed little solid know- 
ledge of the duties of their arm, and the work of keeping 
in touch with the enemy was often very badly performed. 

As regards their ideas of personal ease the French 
officers were no better than their opponents. Their 
private vehicles and baggage swelled the trains to gigantic 
dimensions — a fact which contributed much to the 
disasters of the retreat. 

The quality of the rank and file was by no means what 
it had been in the great years of Austerlitz and Jena. 
The bloody campaign of 1807 had created gaps not 
easily to be filled at the time, and the Austrian and 
Peninsular wars deprived the army of the leisure 
necessary for it to repair its losses. The French divisions 
of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Army Corps contained 
many old regiments, but even in them there was a large 
proportion of recruits ; and there were a number of 
regiments, belonging to newly annexed provinces, 
which were not altogether trustworthy. Their material 
— the sturdy peasantry of the Low Countries and North 
Germany — was excellent, and their conduct on the 
field usually irreproachable ; but their administration 
and discipline left much to be desired. Their bad con- 
dition was continually exercising the soul of the order- 


loving Davout. In one despatch he describes the Dutch 
33rd Leger as canaille, and declares in disgust that he 
can do nothing with it. Ney likewise complained of the 
129th, and pointed out that it would have been better 
to draft the recruits of which it was composed into older 
regiments. It is probable that Napoleon's object in 
forming new units was to train as many officers as 

The deterioration of the troops rendered it necessary 
to employ deep tactical formations, with consequent 
risk of heavy losses. The usual formations for attacking 
infantry were (1) the " column of companies," in which 
each battalion advanced with its companies in three- 
deep line, one behind another, and (2) the M column of 
divisions," with a front of two companies instead of 
one. At best the front was narrow and the volume of 
fire proportionately weak, even when, as was usual, 
each battalion was preceded by a skirmishing line of 
Voltigeurs. Napoleon was fully aware of the fire weak- 
ness of these attack formations, and recommended as 
the ideal the ordre mixte in which battalions in column 
alternated with others in line. This order, like the others, 
failed hopelessly against the British two-deep line which 
brought every musket into action ; and it is remarkable 
that able French generals continued to employ it when 
its inefficiency had been so clearly demonstrated. It is 
at least probable that the excitable and imaginative 
French soldiery could not advance steadily in line. At 
any rate, French tacticians trusted, to the end, in the 
thick skirmishing line which preceded the advance 
being able to clear a way for the masses behind. As the 
Russians, with less intelligent and (on the whole) worse 
trained troops, adopted similar tactics, the problems which 
troubled the French in Spain did not arise in Russia. 

The French cavalry was excellent on the field, but other- 
wise often unsatisfactory. In scouting and outpost work 
it was inefficient ; more than once during the campaign 


touch with the Russians was entirely lost. No doubt 
much of this inefficiency was due to the exhaustion 
of the horses. Forage was generally scarce, and to 
losses from fatigue and lack of food were soon added 
those in action. The men were frequently poor horse- 
masters. Murat took no care for the mounts, and over- 
worked his force from the first. When the central army 
began its retreat only 15,000 horsemen remained mounted, 
and none but the Guard regiments were really fit for 

Concerning the internal condition of the French army 
something must be said. With the old soldiers devotion 
to their leader was still the watchword ; but it would be 
a grave mistake to imagine that this sentiment was 
universal, especially among the better educated elements 
of the army. Yet the loyalty of the troops, as a whole, 
admits of no doubt. Sir Robert Wilson and De Fezensac 
are at one in bearing witness to this. The desire for 
plunder no doubt counted for something, but it was 
hunger rather than greed that made the French soldier 
a marauder. The spirit of brigandage was indeed rife 
in the army, and infected everyone from the commanders 
downward. On the whole, it may fairly be said that, in 
the ranks the sense of loyalty was strong and the general 
spirit good, but that discipline was often badly maintained 
and naturally tended to become more and more relaxed 
as hardships increased. Further, it may be observed that 
while there were numbers of irreproachable men among 
the officers, there were also many greedy adventurers, 
besides those who were demoralised, like their men, 
by years of predatory warfare. Finally, there was, of 
course, in the army the ruffianly element, which is never 
absent. To this element must be attributed the com- 
mission of most of the atrocities which undoubtedly 
took place, and for which the whole army had later to 
suffer. One further point must be touched upon. The 
evidence as to the presence of women and children with 


the army, especially during the retreat, is abundant 
and overwhelming. This unhappy element consisted, in 
the first place, of female camp-followers — vivandieres, 
cantinieres and the like — mostly the wives of soldiers. 
Some of the officers, at any rate, were ill-advised enough 
to take their wives with them. The foreign population 
of Moscow mostly awaited the invaders, and fled with 
them in fear of Russian vengeance. Finally, the morals 
of the French army in sexual matters can only be described 
as low, at any rate from the British standpoint. Napoleon 
himself was not so much immoral as unmoral — not that 
there is any absolute proof that he gave way to his 
passions during the Russian campaign — and many of his 
officers followed his example. On the whole, it seems 
clear that for one reason or another the invading army 
was burdened with thousands of women and children, 
whose sufferings during the retreat constituted probably 
its most harrowing feature. 

The troops of the allied states who accompanied and 
outnumbered the French were, generally speaking, the 
fair equals on the field of their comrades-in-arms. The 
Bavarians, Westphalians and Wurttembergers all be- 
haved splendidly ; and some of the finest fighting in 
the war was accomplished by the Berg and Baden 
regiments at the passage of the Berezina. The Italians 
fought admirably at the one general action at which 
they had the fortune to be present. The great Polish 
contingent performed splendid service for the man to 
whom Poland looked for its restoration to the roll of 
independent nations. Nor can any fault be found with 
the conduct in battle of the Spanish and Portuguese 
troops, though they were no better than prisoners, 
serving by compulsion. The Austrians and Prussians 
generally took no very prominent part in the campaign ; 
but what they did was by no means to their discredit. 

It was in administration rather than fighting quality 
that the allied troops fell below the French standard. 


They were also generally so badly supplied that the 
best administration could have effected little to improve 
their lot. The fine Bavarian and Wurttemberg troops 
wasted away by half before they had seen an enemy, 
and the Poles, to judge from Poniatowski's despatches, 
were often little better off. That the Spaniards and 
Portuguese supplied more than their proportion of 
deserters and pillagers is merely what might have been 
expected, and the same may be said of the Croats and 
Illyrians, whose interest in the war in which they were 
sacrificed was absolutely nil. Yet, on the whole, it 
cannot well be said that the foreign troops showed 
conspicuously worse discipline than their French com- 
rades, though doubtless the general mixture of races and 
languages tended to lower the general standard. 

As to the absolute quality of the allied troops it is very 
difficult to speak. The German and Swiss infantry were 
very solid and good, though of course the quality of the 
different contingents varied, and perhaps the Bavarians, 
Wurttembergers and Badeners rose above the general 
level. The Saxon cavalry were admirable, and probably 
the best in the entire Grande Armee. The German 
artillery also, especially that of Wurttemberg, was good, 

The best of the Polish troops were very good indeed ; 
but the regiments were largely composed of raw recruits, 
hastily raised for the great effort which, as the Poles of 
Warsaw fondly hoped, was to re-establish their national 
existence. The cavalry was good ; the infantry less so. 
Discipline does not appear to have been very satisfactory ; 
the officers included too many Pans, owing their com- 
missions to their noble birth. 

The Prussians were probably the best disciplined and 
best officered of all the allied troops. The general quality 
of the Austrians, also, was good. 

Upon the whole, it cannot be doubted that the Grande 
Armee of 1812 was too heterogeneous, and that its 
quality was not of the best. Much of it had been hastily 


raised ; and its enormous numbers merely added to the 
difficulty of provisioning it and, in consequence, to its 
misery and losses. General Bonnal thinks that Napoleon, 
when he collected the gigantic force, was more or less 
suffering from megalomania ; and that he would have 
achieved more had he depended upon a Franco-Polish 
first line of about 250,000 troops, perfectly organised, 
disciplined and supplied. The point is certainly worthy 
of consideration. 

Something must be said of the commanders who, 
under the direction of Napoleon, conducted the greatest 
of his armies during the most ambitious and disastrous 
of his campaigns. 

For Napoleon himself a very few words must suffice. 
More has probably been written about him than of any 
other single figure in history. No good purpose can 
here be served by anything more than some brief animad- 
versions upon the share which he himself had in the 
catastrophe of 1812. 

Napoleon's position as the greatest military leader of 
modern times is as yet unchallenged ; and it is needless 
therefore to discuss it. In 1812 he was, as far as years go, 
a comparatively young man. He was barely forty-three ; 
his bodily energy and capacity of endurance were yet 
enormous. Nevertheless, he was not the Napoleon of 
1800 and 1805. He had grown stout and somewhat 
unwieldy ; and his gross habit of body must at times 
have affected his mind. Nor is it possible to ignore the 
first-hand evidence as to his indifferent health on more 
than one important occasion. 

Napoleon's fierce and impetuous nature always made 
light of obstacles, and lack of patience was certainly a 
very pronounced feature in his character. Wellington is 
said to have remarked that it incapacitated the Emperor 
from defensive action in 1814, when circumstances 
imperatively demanded it. 

Finally, Napoleon in 18 12 was ruler as well as general ; 


and political considerations probably had something to 
do with his adoption of courses of action indefensible 
from the military standpoint. 

Napoleon's natural impatience, and his rage at being 
unable to strike a crushing blow, will probably explain 
the fatal rush in August past Smolensk on to Moscow. 
Bodily suffering appears to the author to account satis- 
factorily for his undoubted lack of energy at Borodino. 
The fatal delay at Moscow may fairly be attributed to a 
combination of political circumstances and not entirely 
unfounded optimism as regards the future. 

For some of Napoleon's amazing blunders on the 
retreat reasons such as these will hardly account. The 
fatal dispersion of the marching columns along 60 miles 
of road, even after passing Smolensk, when the army was 
already worn down to a mere remnant ; the unnecessarily 
slow pace of the march, the burning of the pontoon 
train previous to the passage of the Berezina, are cases 
in point ; and can hardly be attributed to anything 
save declining intellectual powers. 

On the whole, it seems difficult to deny that Napoleon, 
in 1812, had definitely entered upon his decline ; that 
his perception was less clear than of old ; that his bodily 
energy had decayed ; that his genius, though still 
capable of burning brightly, now only blazed forth 
fitfully. Certainly there were times during the Moscow 
campaign when it appeared to be almost extinct. 

Marshal Berthier, Prince of Neufchatel, served in 1812, 
as in every campaign of Napoleon since 1796, as chief-of- 
staff. His methodical habits and untiring industry, 
coupled with his complete familiarity with Napoleon's 
character, rendered him indispensable to the latter. 
His military talents were not remarkable, and his general 
position was rather that of a confidential secretary than 
that of a modern chief-of-staff — for whom, indeed, there 
was no place near a man of Napoleon's essentially 
despotic temperament. 

A. Rischgitz 


Commander of the 1st French Army Corps 

From the painting by Gautherdt at Versailles 


Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout, Prince of Eckmuhl 
and Duke of Auerstadt, commander of the huge 1st 
Corps d'Armee, was probably the best of all Napoleon's 
generals, though he never had such opportunities of 
distinguishing himself in independent command as were 
granted to Massena and Soult. He was a fine example of 
the modern scientific soldier, a stern disciplinarian and 
an admirable administrator, with a passion for order and 
method ; and very careful of his men. The charges of 
cruelty brought against him do not appear to the author 
to have been satisfactorily made out — certainly not 
according to the standards of humanity generally accepted 
in Continental warfare. At the same time, there was 
undoubtedly a harsh and rough side to his character, and 
he seems to have lacked self-control and tact. Davout 
had excellent strategic insight, and his tactical ability 
and tenacity in action had been frequently and brilliantly 
demonstrated. He took a distinguished part in the 
first half of the campaign of 1812, but rather failed in 
the unaccustomed post of rear-guard commander. Men 
of his methodical habit of mind are probably ill-fitted 
to shine in such a turmoil of misery and disorder as the 
retreat from Moscow. 

Marshal Oudinot, Duke of Reggio, was a hard-fighting 
veteran of the Revolution, who had received his baton 
for services rendered in supporting Davout at Wagram. 
He was an excellent subordinate, but failed in separate 
command like so many of Napoleon's generals, though 
his action previous to the passage of the Berezina was 
highly meritorious. 

. Michel Ney, Duke of Elchingen, Marshal of France, 
reaped most of the credit gained by Napoleon's generals 
in 1812. Ney is commonly regarded as a mere hard 
fighter, but he was fairly well educated, and to all appear- 
ance a careful administrator. Among the papers of the 
French War Office relating to 18 12 is an order in which 
he carefully instructs his suffering troops how to cook 


the unground grain which was their only food. As a 
strategist Ney did not excel, and he failed in independent 
command, but he was a fine tactician, and as a corps 
commander probably unsurpassed. His famous title 
" Le Brave des Braves " fairly sums up his character. 
His courage was indeed of that nobler type which rises 
to its height at the moment when that of meaner men 

Prince Eugene, Viceroy of Italy, son of the ex-Empress 
Josephine, was by virtue of his Imperial rank the com- 
mander of the army of Italy. He was brave, disinterested 
and devoted to his stepfather, but his military talents 
were not great, and he lacked experience. In 1809 he 
had been opposed to a commander even less capable than 
himself, and his officers and soldiers had helped him 
successfully out of his difficulties. 

Prince Joseph Anthony Poniatowski, nephew of the 
last King of Poland, could hardly have been passed over 
in appointing a commander for the 5th (Polish) Army 
Corps ; especially as he was Minister of War of the 
Grand Duchy of Warsaw. He was brave and popular 
with his men, but possessed of no great capacity, 
and was indolent and pleasure loving. 

General Gouvion St. Cyr, who was promoted Marshal 
for his victory over Wittgenstein at Polotsk in August, 
was a very capable though disaffected officer, who had, 
as far as good service counted for anything, won his baton 
long before. 

General Reynier, the commander of the Saxon 7th 
Corps, was a hard-fighting, experienced soldier of no 
special ability, and extremely unfortunate in war. Junot, 
who took over the Westphalian Corps from King Jerome, 
owed his position chiefly to Napoleon's friendship for 

King Jerome Napoleon of Westphalia would probably 
have done well enough at the head of the troops of his 
own kingdom ; his courage, as he showed at Waterloo, 

A. Risckgitz 



Commander of the 5th (Polish) Corps of the Grand Army 

From the painting by T. A. Vauchelet at Versailles 


was beyond question. But to place him in command 
of three army corps, operating in a difficult country, and 
charged with a vitally important mission, was a gigantic 
blunder on the part of Napoleon. It is no especial 
discredit to Jerome that he failed so completely. General 
Bonnal observes that he cannot be blamed for trans- 
gressing military principles with which he had never 
been acquainted. 

Marshal Victor, the commander of the 9th Corps, was 
an experienced officer, but had been very unfortunate in 
the Peninsula against the British. 

Marshal Macdonald, commanding the 10th Corps, 
took a very small part in the campaign ; and, unless 
he had special orders, cannot be said to have displayed 
much activity. He was a man of high personal character 
and a good hard-fighting corps commander, but of no 
eminence as a general. 

Napoleon, during the latter part of his career, was 
repeatedly accused of placing his relations in positions 
for which they were not fitted. The case of King Jerome 
is one in point ; so also perhaps, to a certain extent, 
is that of Napoleon's celebrated brother-in-law, Joachim 
Murat, King of Naples, commander of the Cavalry 
Reserves. Audacity and tactical ability on the field 
Murat certainly possessed, but he was hardly a great 
cavalry leader. His outpost and reconnaissance work 
was often very badly performed, and his impetuosity 
caused him to overwork and harass his men and horses. 
He lacked stability of character and steadiness in adver- 
sity, as he was soon to show. Yet as King of Naples he 
possesses more than one title to esteem, and in his 
character, amidst vanity and absurdity, there was much 
that was elevated and noble. 

The commanders of the four corps under Murat's 
orders were all men of experience as cavalry leaders. 
The best of them, perhaps, was Nansouty, at any rate in 
his own estimation, but the name of Grouchy is better 


known in Great Britain. Montbrun and Latour-Maubourg 
had seen much service in Spain. 

Marshal Lefebvre, Duke of Dantzic, commander of 
the Old Guard, was much attached to Napoleon, but 
otherwise merely a rough, honest old soldier of little 
strategic or tactical ability. His title was much better 
deserved by the brilliant engineer, General Chasseloup, 
who accompanied the army in 18 12 as chief of his branch 
of the service. 

Marshal Mortier, Duke of Treviso, commander of the 
Young Guard, was an excellent corps commander, as 
had been demonstrated in Spain. 

Marshal Bessieres, Duke of Istria, had been associated 
with the cavalry of the Guard since its formation. He 
was a fine cavalry leader, and a man of integrity and 
devotion to his chief, otherwise deserving of no special 

Generally speaking, Napoleon's commanding officers 
had one great defect. With few exceptions they had 
become so habituated to submission to the dominat- 
ing personality of the Emperor that they had lost all 
power of initiative. 

In an army so huge and of such experience there were 
naturally many officers who in a less warlike age would 
have been acclaimed as great generals. The majority of 
the divisional and brigade leaders were excellent, though 
some were already wearing out. Several of them — men 
such as Verdier — had had considerable experience in 
independent command, and some had acquired therein a 
by no means savoury reputation. Gudin, the leader 
of Davout's 3rd Division, was perhaps the most dis- 
tinguished as a soldier, but his colleagues Friant, 
Morand, Desaix and Compans were all fine officers. 
Legrand, Merle, Verdier, Ledru, Marchand, Broussier, 
Pino, Bruyere, Sebastiani, St. Germain, Claparede, 
Tharreau, and others were men of considerable merit 
and experience. 


Of the General Staff it may be said that it had scarcely 
any affinity with the board of specially trained officers 
which accompanies and assists a modern commander- 
in-chief. Napoleon's absorption, in his single person, of 
all military and administrative functions had reduced 
it to a position of complete insignificance. For all 
practical purposes it was nothing but a mass of orderlies, 
and though it contained many talented and meritorious 
officers they had small opportunity of distinguishing 
themselves so long as they remained members of it. 
Napoleon in one moment of exasperation declared that 
" the General Staff is organised in such a manner that 
nothing is foreseen." The remark was more or less 
true ; but that such a state of affairs could exist is a 
very severe comment upon his methods. The invading 
host was, in short, the army of a despot who endeavoured 
to supervise everything himself and discouraged initia- 
tive in others, with the natural result that much that 
might have been done to minimise the catastrophe was 
not attempted. 

The numbers of the invading army and its composition, 
according to the states and peoples who contributed 
contingents, are given in detail in Appendices A and B. 
Roughly it may be said that during the campaign 
Napoleon disposed of the following numbers : — 

First Line 


Head-quarters ; Imperial Guard ; 

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 
Corps; ...... 

Austrian Corps ; Cavalry Reserve 

Second Line 

9th Corps ; Polish and Lithuanian levies ; . 

2 French Divisions ; . . . . \ 165,000 

German Troops, Drafts, Parks, etc. . 


Third Line 

Drafts and organised troops in touch with \ 

Russians at close of campaign, including I 60,000 
garrisons of Danzig and on Vistula . J 


The composition by nations of the first two lines may 
be stated as follows : — 

French and New French .... 302,000 

Germans and Swiss .... 190,000 

Poles and Lithuanians .... 90,000 

Italians, Illyrians, Spaniards, Portuguese . 32,000 



THE circumstance which most impresses the 
reader who for the first time, and without know- 
ledge of the conditions, peruses the story of the 
Franco- Russian campaign of 1812 is that the forces of 
Russia were, as compared with those of Napoleon, very 
weak. This weakness in war is familiar enough to all 
students of Russian history, nor are the reasons far to 
seek. Since, however, it must appear peculiar to all who 
regard Russia as a power essentially huge and powerful 
— the " Colossus of the North " — its causes must be 
briefly reviewed. 

It is true that Russia is a country of vast extent ; but 
her huge territory, to-day very imperfectly developed, 
was in 181 2 largely in an almost primeval condition, while 
the population was even more sparsely distributed. The 
country was and is covered in many places by wide ex- 
panses of almost impenetrable forest, and by vast tracts 
of morass. In the western provinces the marshes of Pinsk 
cover an area of more than 20,000 square miles ; and in 
1 81 2 they were pierced by only three indifferent roads. 
The majority of the numerous rivers do not in them- 
selves present grave obstacles to intercommunication or 
military operations, being in summer shallow and easily 
fordable, and in winter usually frozen over, but they are 
often wide, and frequently have soft or sandy beds. 
The larger of them must be negotiated by means of 
bridges, and in 181 2 bridges were few. Moreover, in 
Central Russia the soil is generally yielding and sandy, 



and every small stream has hollowed for itself in the course 
of ages a gully more or less deep. These gullies, repeatedly 
recurring, presented considerable obstacles, especially 
since they were rarely bridged. 

The distances to be traversed were and are enormous. 
Readers of Herodotus will remember how the prospect 
of the three months' march from Miletus to Susa fright- 
ened Kleomenes and the elders of Sparta. To transfer 
troops from the Caucasus to St. Petersburg in 1812 involved 
a journey of even greater magnitude — without the aid of 
the Royal Road of Persia. Even to-day the Russian 
roads are comparatively few and bad. In 1812 it was in- 
finitely worse. The few high-roads were frequently very 
badly maintained ; cross-roads of use for military pur- 
poses were almost non-existent. 

Finally, Russia was as undeveloped politically as eco- 
nomically. The bulk of the peasantry were serfs chained 
to the soil. The accepted method of enrolling them for 
the national defence was to call upon the nobles, who 
owned the greater part of the land, for a levy of so many 
per hundred or thousand souls. Their interests naturally 
induced them to endeavour to retain the best and most 
industrious of their serfs, and to furnish for the army the 
ill-conditioned or idle, as far as possible. In a country 
in which corruption has always been rampant the re- 
cruiting officials were doubtless amenable to the influence 
of judicious bribery, and the actual result of a military 
levy was often far less than it should have been. The 
slowness of communication, the general poverty of the 
Government, the lack of factories of clothing, arms and 
ammunition, added to the difficulty of rapidly and 
efficiently increasing the armed strength. In 1812 Russia 
was suffering also from an almost complete cessation of 
commerce, the result of the British blockade of her 
coasts brought on by the alliance with Napoleon in 1807, 
and the financial difficulties were in consequence even 
greater than usual. 


The Russian army, since its organisation on European 
methods by Peter the Great, has usually tended to be a 
rather crude and imperfect copy of the most modern 
force of the time. In 1812 French ideas naturally pre- 
dominated, and their influence was apparent in many 
respects, especially in the direction of the higher organi- 

Early in 1810, as already noted, General Barclay 
de Tolly became Minister of War in Russia, and set 
himself earnestly, with the support of the Emperor, to 
reorganise the army. Divided counsels near the Tzar, 
and the adverse influence of the conditions above detailed, 
rendered the execution of his plans slow and difficult. 
Nevertheless, a great deal was effected, and whatever 
opinions may be held as to Barclay's military ability 
there can be no doubt of his talent for organising. 

In 1812 the Russian infantry comprised 6 regiments 
of Imperial Guards, 14 of Grenadiers, 50 of light infantry 
(Chasseurs), and 96 of the line. Each regiment consisted 
of 3 4-company battalions with an establishment of 764 
officers and men per battalion in the Guards, and 738 in 
the line. As a fact, only the Guard regiments were able 
to complete 3 field battalions. The strengths of the line 
regiments were so low that Barclay could only complete 
2 battalions of each regiment at the expense of the third. 
One company of the third battalion was also completed 
by drafts from the other three, and these companies 
combined in threes or fours to form battalions of " com- 
bined grenadiers." There then remained to each regiment 
a weak battalion of three depleted companies. These 
were collected at various strategic centres as " Reserve 
Divisions," and Barclay hoped to complete them with 
recruits. He designed the formation of thirty-six depots 
at suitable points, at which new levies were to be trained 
into additional battalions and squadrons for the infantry 
and cavalry regiments. In this respect, however, there 
was not enough time for his judicious arrangements to 


have much effect. In practice Russia was able to do little 
more than maintain her field army at something like war 
strength. The third battalions, reserves and new levies 
were chiefly absorbed in feeding the fighting line. 

A large proportion of the troops were by 181 2 armed 
with a musket of new model, about equal to that with 
which the French and British infantry were furnished, 
but many still carried the older and clumsier weapon 
which had been employed in 1807. The bullet was rather 
heavier than that of the French infantry musket ; but, 
judging from the fact that the Russians usually appear 
to have had a higher proportion of killed to wounded 
than their adversaries, it is probable that the powder 
was often inferior. 

The Russian cavalry included 6 Guard regiments — 2 
of Cuirassiers, 1 of Dragoons, 1 of Hussars, 1 of Uhlans 
(Lancers) and 1 of Cossacks— each of 4 field squadrons 
and 1 depot squadron. The Cossack regiment included a 
detachment of Orenburg Cossacks, and apparently had 
5 or 6 field squadrons. The line cavalry comprised 8 
regiments of Cuirassiers, 36 of Dragoons, each of 4 field 
squadrons and the depot ; n of Hussars and 5 of Uhlans, 
each with 8 field and 2 depot squadrons. The establish- 
ment of a Guard squadron was 159 officers and men, 
that of a line squadron 151. The cavalry was well and 
adequately mounted, much better so than that of 
Napoleon. The men were less well trained than their 
opponents, but, belonging to a country in which there is a 
horse to every five or six human beings, were probably 
good horse masters. Hay was the usual forage, and, to 
the surprise of Clausewitz, the horses throve upon it. 
Accurate details of armament I have been unable to 
procure, except that the line Cuirassiers were only pro- 
tected on the breast. Helmets and cuirasses were painted 
black, not polished — a very sensible and labour-saving 

The gradual inclusion in Russia of nomadic peoples 


and of the old border moss-trooping or Cossack (really 
Kazak = freebooter) settlements enabled the Government 
to supplement its forces by swarms of irregular horsemen. 
Besides the Cossacks these were Crimean Tartars, Kal- 
muks and Bashkirs — the latter still clothed in chain 
mail and armed with the bow ! In June there were 
perhaps 15,000 of them on the western frontier. Their 
numbers later increased to 30,000 or more. Their 
reputation rests largely upon the dread with which they 
inspired the demoralised Napoleonic army during its 
retreat. In the field they could not contend with regulars, 
and even during the retreat could never achieve anything 
against such of the French infantry as kept its ranks. 
For guerilla operations and for harassing the retreat 
they were invaluable. 

In artillery Russian armies have usually been very 
strong. The inefficiency of the mediaeval Muscovite 
levies of horse and foot led early to a remarkable and 
precocious development of the artillery arm. Peter the 
Great in his reorganisation paid special attention to it, 
and his crowning victory at Poltava was very largely 
due to his excellent artillery. After Peter's reign his 
policy was continued, and Russia owed many victories to 
the masses of well-served guns which accompanied her 

In 1812 the Russian artillery of the line comprised 
44 heavy, 58 light and 22 horse-artillery batteries or- 
ganised in 27 foot and 10 reserve brigades, besides single 
horse artillery batteries attached to the cavalry. There 
were also 29 depot companies. The numbers of gunners 
and drivers varied from an average of 240 for the heavy 
batteries to 160 for light artillery companies. They were 
each armed with 12 guns and howitzers. Cossacks had 
their own horse batteries. 

The artillery of the Guard comprised 2 heavy and 2 
light batteries, each of 16 guns and howitzers, and 2 horse 
artillery batteries of 8, with establishments in proportion. 


The armament consisted of 18-pounder (%-ptid) 
howitzers and 12-pounder guns for the heavy batteries, 
9-pounder howitzers and 6-pounder guns for the light 
artillery, and 6-pounders for the horse batteries. The 
heavy ammunition waggons customary in other European 
armies were not employed in Russia, their place being 
taken by a larger number of light vehicles. The quality 
of the material appears generally to have been excellent, 
though Sir R. Wilson and General Kutaisov recom- 
mended various improvements ; and the draft horses 
were very numerous and good. The Russian artillery 
continually performed feats of transport that speak 
volumes for its high quality, and the number of pieces 
abandoned or captured was extraordinarily small. 

The technical troops were few in number and lacking 
both in scientific officers and training. The medical 
department, though far better than in 1807, when it was 
practically non-existent, was still terribly inadequate 
and ill equipped, and trained physicians and surgeons 
were very few. 

There were 32 garrison regiments, 1 Guard garrison 
battalion, garrison artillery, and pensioners. 

A detailed statement of the Russian forces is given in 
Appendix C, but of course all of these were not avail- 
able. Immediately disposable to meet the invasion there 
were : — 

First Line 


First Army of the West . 


Second ,, ... 


Third ,, ... 



Second Line 


27th Infantry Division . 


Reserve Troops and Riga Garrison . 


\ ** c\c\c\ 

4j» uuu 

Total . . 256,000 


To reinforce the fighting line there were brought up 
during the campaign — 

From Finland .... 14,000 

the Turkish frontier . . 44,000 

the Crimea .... 5,000 

Militia, Recruits, Cossacks, etc. . . 90,000 


Total actually employed . . 409,000 

The last item can only be a very rough estimate. 
It is, however, certain that the large figures given in 
some authorities bear no proportion to the numbers 
of reinforcements which actually reached the front. 
It is of course obvious that the entire armed strength 
of Russia cannot be reckoned as opposed to Napoleon. 
The Asiatic, Caucasian and Crimea troops could at best 
only furnish small detachments. 

The First and Second Armies had received at the 
hands of Barclay a fairly complete army-corps organisa- 
tion, each corps containing two infantry divisions, a 
brigade or division of cavalry, and two brigades of 
artillery, with a battery of horse artillery attached to 
the cavalry. The Third Army and the Army of the 
Danube were still organised in the main on the old 
system of mixed divisions. 

The characteristics of the Russian soldier have never 
varied. He was and is endowed with remarkable en- 
durance and courage, but is comparatively unintelligent. 
In 1812 illiteracy was practically universal. 

The conditions of service were bad. The period was 
twenty-five years, and brutal methods were often neces- 
sary to compel the recruits to leave the homes which they 
would probably never see again. Life in the ranks was 
hard, and only the fact that it was probably no harder 
than the existence of the average peasant could have 
rendered it endurable. The men were well clothed, for 
obvious reasons ; but they were in general ill-fed, ill- 


lodged, ill-cared-for, and practically unpaid. The methods 
of maintaining discipline were brutal, and if in theory 
military service meant emancipation from serfdom, in 
practice the men were treated as slaves. It is all to their 
honour that they made and make such good soldiers. 

The great characteristic of Russian troops is their 
extraordinary solidity and imperturbability under the 
most terrible punishment. A Russian army hardly ever 
dissolves under the influence of defeat ; it must literally 
be battered to pieces. A good example of this was 
afforded at Zorndorf in 1758, when Frederick the Great 
gained a Cadmean success over a largely raw, badly 
trained and equipped, and ill-led Russian army not 
greatly superior in number to his own. He nearly 
destroyed both wings of the Russian host, but the centre 
stood firm, rallied the survivors, fought doggedly until 
nightfall, and lumbered defiantly away with some show 
of equality. The campaign of 1812 was to afford further 
proof of these characteristics. 

There is a tendency to regard the Russian soldiers 
as generally large men, but there is abundant evidence 
that this was not the case. An English observer, writing 
about 1854, describes them as usually undersized, but 
they were doubtless hardy enough. The Guards were 
picked men. The cavalry, artillery, light infantry and 
grenadiers absorbed the best of the remaining recruits ; 
the ordinary line regiments, with very inadequate means, 
had to assimilate and train the poorest of the available 

The officers, as a class, were not capable of adequately 
training the fine material at their disposal. There 
were honourable exceptions, but at his best the Russian 
regimental officer was hardly the equal of his opponent of 
corresponding rank, though often, perhaps, a better 
linguist and a finer social figure. The Guards, as a whole, 
obtained the best officers, and after them the pick went 
to the cavalry and artillery, while the line infantry 


regiments were often very badly off. The ordinary 
battalion and company leaders frequently lacked all 
but the most elementary military instruction. Appoint- 
ment and promotion were too often due to Court favour, 
female influence or corruption. The officers were, as a 
class, indolent. Too often they were not at the head of 
their men ; their private carriages or sledges swelled 
the trains to enormous proportions, while the fighting 
line was weakened by the numbers of men detailed for their 
service. Gambling and drunkenness were very preva- 
lent, and personal cowardice by no means uncommon, 
as Duke Eugen of Wurttemberg and Lowenstern testify. 
It is fair to add that defects such as these existed more 
or less in all armies of the period, but the Russian army 
has always been badly or inadequately officered. 

In the higher ranks the conditions were not more 
satisfactory. There was a superabundance of general 
officers, but their quality often left much to be desired, 
and appointments were frequently due to other causes 
than military efficiency. This was, it is true, not especially 
the case in 1812. Alexander, presumably with the 
assistance of Barclay de Tolly, seems to have made a very 
fair choice of corps commanders, and several of the 
divisional leaders later acquired a well-deserved renown. 

The foreign officers were a most important element. 
Germany furnished the largest contingent, but there 
were many French emigres, as the Due de Richelieu, 
Langeron, and St. Priest, and at least one Italian, the 
Marquis Paulucci. It may fairly be said of them that 
their general intellectual and scientific level was higher 
than that of the native officers. The latter were naturally 
bitterly jealous ; and the foreigners rarely receive justice 
at the hands of popular Russian writers. It is humiliating 
to find even Tolstoi stooping to perpetuate these jealousies 
and employing the term " German " in an obviously 
contemptuous sense. Many of these foreigners did 
excellent work for Russia in 181 2 — though it is true that 


Phull, perhaps the most prominent of them, was an un 
practical dreamer. 

Mikhail Bogdanovich, Baron Barclay de Tolly, Minister 
of War and Commander-in-Chief of the First Army of 
the West at the outbreak of hostilities, was himself in 
some sense a foreigner, and seems to have been regarded 
as one, much to his misfortune, by the ultra-Russian 
officers. He was a Livonian by birth, and ultimately of 
Scottish extraction, being descended from a member of 
the family of Barclay of Towie, who had settled in 
Livonia in the seventeenth century. In 1812 General 
Barclay de Tolly was fifty-one years of age. His rise in 
the army had at first been very slow, owing to his un- 
assuming character and to lack of influence ; but his 
skill and courage as a divisional leader in 1807 and 1809, 
especially displayed in his march across the frozen Baltic 
in the latter year, had brought him to the front rank in 
the Russian councils. His reorganisation of the Russian 
army in 1810-12 will probably constitute his best title 
to fame. The published Russian documents bear em- 
phatic witness to his industry, energy, and scientific 
spirit. His deficiencies in high command are to be 
attributed partly to inexperience in handling large masses 
of troops — an inexperience which he shared with all 
but a very few contemporary leaders. He was over- 
burdened with work, being War Minister as well as 
general, and was constantly harassed by the insub- 
ordination, sometimes verging upon mutiny, of his 
assistants. His personal character stands very high. 
Patriotism and devotion to duty were to him a religion ; 
and he was one of the few men in Russia who rose above 
narrowly patriotic views. His scorn of personal profit 
and ease do him the highest honour, since they were 
shared by few indeed of the men about him. Alexander's 
trust in him never seems really to have faltered. The 
dreamy, romantic, crowned knight-errant and the simple, 
devoted soldier of his country had indeed much in 

General, War Minister, and Commander of the First Army of the West in 1812 


common. Russia has had few sons to compare with 
Barclay de Tolly ; and it is not to her credit that his 
worth has been so little appreciated. 

General Prince Peter Ivanovich Bagration, com- 
mander of the Second Army of the West, was a man 
of different stamp. He was descended from the Armenian 
royal line of the Bagratidae ; and to his exalted rank 
his rapid rise in the service was largely due. Though 
only born in 1765, he was a major-general in 1795. At 
the same time Bagration' s abilities were considerable 
enough to have ensured his rise under any circumstances. 
Suvorov had a high opinion of him ; and the great 
leader's judgment cannot be lightly set aside. Bagration 
was essentially a fighter : his tactics were usually in- 
fluenced by his combative instincts ; and his excitable 
temperament rendered him reckless of his person. His 
impatient temper rendered him an intractable colleague 
for the calm and methodical Barclay ; and the latter 's 
courtesy and deference to the senior who had come 
under his orders did not always relieve their strained 
relations. On the whole, it would seem that Bagration 
possessed better strategic insight than his comrade ; 
but his tactical ideas were not always happy. Having 
regard to his impetuosity, it was, perhaps, fortunate 
for Russia that he was not, as his admirers wished, 
placed in supreme command. But in pressing the 
French retreat his fiery energy would have been in- 
valuable ; and from this point of view his death was a 
national disaster. It is but due to his memory to say 
that he really appears to have been a man of too high 
and noble a character to condescend to wilful insubor- 
dination or intrigue ; his intractability was the outcome 
of temporary ill- temper, as were his occasional unjust 
remarks concerning Barclay. Towards the end of their 
association relations between the two chiefs improved ; 
and, on one occasion at least Bagration openly testified 
to his regard for Barclay. 


General Count Alexander Petrovich Tormazov, the 
commander of the Third Army of the West, does not 
appear to have been a man of any exceptional ability. 
His early successes were due to numerical superiority ; 
but he then unduly dispersed his forces, and was in his 
turn overwhelmed. At Gorodeczna he would probably 
have been destroyed but for the methodical slowness of 
his opponents. 

General Prince Mikhail Hilarionovich Golenischev- 
Kutuzov, who in August became Commander-in-Chief 
of all the Russian armies in the field, was a veteran of 
sixty-seven years, of which fifty-two had been spent 
in arms. He was certainly a man of ability, both political 
and military ; and his practical experience of war was 
great, though largely acquired in service against Polish 
guerrillas and Turkish irregulars. Though he had been 
nominal Commander-in-Chief at Austerlitz, his reputa- 
tion had scarcely suffered ; for it was well known that 
he had exercised practically no authority, which had 
been usurped by the young Tzar and his confidants. 
That he could take advantage of his opponents' blunders 
had been demonstrated at Diirrenstein in 1805, and on 
the Danube in 181 1. But in 181 2 Kutuzov was too old 
for the emergency ; and wounds and infirmity had 
diminished his bodily activity. Even in the Turkish war 
this had been noticeable. As an ultra-Russian he was 
able to command more loyal support than Barclay. His 
conduct of the battle of Borodino was at least energetic, 
and his subsequent strategy sound ; but during the 
French retreat his lack of enterprise was evident. His 
last campaign made him Field-Marshal and Prince of 
Smolensk, but can hardly be said to have enhanced his 

General Baron Levin Bennigsen, the stout antagonist 
of Napoleon in 1 806-1807, was for a time Kutuzov's 
principal assistant ; but the two did not work well 
together, and eventually Bennigsen was retired. Bennig- 

A. Rischgitz 
Commander-in-chief of the Russian Armies in 1812 


sen, a Hanoverian soldier of fortune, was as old as 
Kutuzov, but much more energetic. He appears to 
have been a selfish and jealous, but able, man, and in 
the following year once more did Russia good service. 
Barclay, according to Lowenstern, said of him, that 
despite his ability, he was a " veritable pest " to the 
army, owing to his egoism and envy ; and this view 
is certainly borne out by a perusal of Bennigsen's un- 
reliable and self -laudatory memoirs. 

General Matvei Ivanovich Platov, Ataman of the 
Cossacks of the Don, is probably better known to British 
readers than any of his colleagues. He was a burly, 
genial officer, uniting to considerable military talents the 
daring and good-humour which were even more im- 
portant in the eyes of his wild followers. He was an 
ideal leader of irregulars ; his ceaseless activity and 
energy will presently be more apparent. 

Admiral Pavel Vasilievich Chichagov, Commander- 
in-Chief of the Army of the Danube, is a somewhat 
remarkable figure in Russian history. He perhaps owed 
some of his characteristics to his frequent association 
with Englishmen. He seems to have been somewhat 
impetuous and excitable ; and certainly possessed a 
very independent temper, not hesitating to speak his 
mind to his despotic master. A seaman and diplomatist, 
placed in command of a land army at a great crisis, it 
would not have been strange had he failed badly, but 
this was far from being the case. Once clear of the 
Turkish embroglio he brought his army to the front with 
all speed ; and though, as a general, too slow, he carried 
out his operations with a steady pertinacity, refusing to 
be diverted by contradictory orders. For Napoleon's 
escape at the Berezina he was only very partially re- 
sponsible ; but the entire blame was laid upon him by 
the hasty injustice of his countrymen, and his career 
ended in voluntary exile many years later. It is not 
pleasant to find his name still rancor ously assailed. The 


Tzar Alexander II was of a different opinion ; one of the 
first ships of the Russian ironclad navy was named 

Of the advisers who surrounded and influenced — 
not always for his good — the Tzar, the most prominent 
was the Prussian Phull. He had occupied an important 
position on the Prussian staff in the fatal year 1806, a 
fact which should surely have warned Alexander against 
his counsels. Certainly none but the Tzar had any con- 
fidence in him, and his utter lack of real military capacity 
was shown in the famous project of the camp at Drissa. 

Of the staff -officers the most notable were Major- 
General Alexei Petrovich Yermolov and Colonel Baron 
Charles Toll. The former was an extraordinary person- 
ality, who seems to have retained more barbarian charac- 
teristics than any European military leader of modern 
times. He was a man of great courage, considerable 
ability, and remarkable will-power ; but of a savage 
and unstable disposition. He could be guilty of gross 
cruelty to prisoners of war, and later, as Viceroy of the 
Caucasus, relied, as he admitted with cynical frankness, 
upon a policy of indiscriminate massacre. Yet he was a 
kind and considerate commander, beloved by his troops, 
and not ungenerous in his treatment of subordinates. 
This treacherous side of his character would induce him 
to intrigue against a rival, with whom he would then 
suddenly become reconciled on some impulse of generosity. 
He intrigued against Barclay, but wept bitterly when 
that ill-used chief left the army. It may have been 
hypocrisy, as Lowenstern says ; but it really has more 
resemblance to one of those impulses which civilised men 
can hardly understand, but which are characteristic of 
barbaric natures, such as Yermolov's. Yermolov's 
policy of massacre failed to pacify Caucasia, and his 
successor Paskievich declared it to have been a gross 
blunder. Nevertheless, Yermolov has continued to this 
day to be the subject of somewhat indiscriminate eulogy. 


It is perhaps better to take the opinion of men who knew 
him. Barclay's was terse and to the point : "An 
able man, but false and intriguing." Alexander's was 
pithy : " His heart is as black as his boot." Clause- 
witz, who was little associated with him, admitted his 

Toll was a scientific soldier of considerable attainments, 
and played a distinguished part during the years 1812- 


Of the officers who, during the campaign, commanded 
detachments or army corps several were men of real 

General Mikhail Andreievich Miloradovich — " the 
Russian Murat " — was in charge of the advance-guard 
which pressed the French retreat. The Russian docu- 
ments show that he was hardly so much the mere swords- 
man as Tolstoi would make him. Both in 1812 and 1813 
Miloradovich distinguished himself greatly, showing 
himself to be as admirable in rear-guard command as 
he was in the leading of the pursuit. 

Lieutenant-General Count Peter Wittgenstein, the 
German commander of the 1st Army Corps, gained 
considerable renown by his independent operations 
against Napoleon's left wing. In high command he 
always failed ; but as a corps commander he was equal 
to most of the French marshals, and, though frequently 
rash and inconsiderate, was never lacking in stubborn- 
ness and energy. 

General Dmitri Sergeievich Dokhturov, commanding 
the 6th Corps, had served with distinction as a divisional 
leader in 1805, 1806 and 1807 ; and reaped fresh laurels 
in 1812. His conduct before and during the battle of 
Maloyaroslavetz reflected the highest credit upon him, 
and may be said in effect to have sealed the fate of the 
retreating Napoleonic host. 

Lieutenant-General Nikolai Nikolaievich Raievski, the 
commander of the 7th Corps, gained a reputation little 


inferior to that earned by Dokhturov. During the critical 
days of August 14-16, when Napoleon was executing 
his famous flank march on Smolensk, Raievski's ready 
acceptance of responsibility and fine resolution ensured 
the defence of the city, and gave Barclay and Bagration 
time to concentrate. His action undoubtedly saved the 
Russians from severe defeat, if not, indeed, from crushing 
and irretrievable disaster. 

Lieutenant-General von der Osten-Sacken, command- 
ing the reserves of the Third Army, was detailed by 
Admiral Chichagov to guard his rear against Schwarzen- 
berg in November, while he himself marched to hold 
the crossings of the Berezina. He executed his task with 
unfailing courage and energy, though opposed to greatly 
superior numbers. Though an elderly man, his fighting 
energy was great. In the two following years he added 
to his reputation as a dauntless and hard-fighting com- 

None of the other Russian corps commanders was 
accorded the opportunity of rendering such eminent 
service as these three ; but none, whatever his other 
defects, showed himself deficient at need in that stub- 
bornness which was probably the most necessary of all 
qualities when opposed to Napoleon. 

Nor can any serious fault be found with the majority 
of the divisional commanders. Conspicuous among 
them were Konovnitzin, Neverovski, and the young 
Prince Eugen of Wurttemberg, who next year gained 
a great reputation as chief of the 2nd Corps. Among 
those who later rose to the highest rank may be mentioned 
Voronzov, a brave, capable, and altogether estimable 
man, the hero of the terrific struggle on the plateau of 
Craonne in 1814, and thirty years later Viceroy of the 
Caucasus. Also, in command of one of Raievski's 
divisions was a difficult- tempered, vain, and jealous 
young major-general, who in after years was to achieve 
a European renown — Paskievich, presently to be Field- 


Marshal Paskievich of Erivan and Prince of Warsaw. 
Another prominent figure was that of the youthful 
Major-General Count Kutaisov, who commanded the 
artillery of Barclay's army. Though only twenty-eight 
years of age, he does not appear to have been unfitted 
for his post ; all who came in contact with him bear 
witness to his tireless energv. Certainly the Russian 
losses in artillery were very slight, and to Kutaisov must 
part at least of the credit be given. He ended his brief 
and brilliant career on the field of Borodino while leading 
a successful counter-attack. 

Of the Russian army as a whole it is to be said that 
there were too many generals entitled by their rank 
to high command, and whom it was deemed necessary 
to placate by giving them commands. At Borodino, 
besides the general officers on the staffs of Barclay and 
Bagration, Bennigsen was present as Chief-of-Staff of 
all the Russian armies ; Konovnitzin was " general 
of service," and there were others. Miloradovich com- 
manded two army corps under Barclay, and General 
Gorchakov was also on the field in a somewhat 
undefined capacity — all these in addition to the Com- 
mander-in-Chief and the Readers of the two armies. 
Most of them were useless on the field, for Barclay, 
Bagration, and Kutuzov naturally sent orders direct 
to the corps and divisional commanders. In 1813 
matters were even worse. In order to employ as many 
as possible of the ambitious general officers a practice 
was adopted of combining corps in pairs. In this fashion 
a force of about 35,000 men was burdened with more 
than thirty generals and three distinct staffs ! In 1812 
the confusion at head-quarters, owing to the presence of 
unattached generals or relatives of the Tzar, was often 
great, and that disaster did not ensue was more than 
once due to something like sheer good fortune. Alexander 
also committed what might have been a fatal error in 
not giving one general precedence over another when 


acting together. Barclay and Bagration often found it 
hard to agree ; and though Chichagov and Tormazov, 
and, apparently, Wittgenstein and Steingell, succeeded 
in working together, it was fortunate that trouble did not 



THE Russian frontier in 1812, from the Black Sea 
to where the River Bug issues from Galicia, was 
practically as it is to-day. The ten Polish 
Governments, however, then formed the greater part of 
the Grand Duchy of Warsaw : the border therefore 
stopped short at the Bug and the lower Niemen below 
Grodno. The Niemen, rising near the city of Minsk, 
flows roughly westward for about 150 miles to Grodno, 
thence about 80 miles northward to Kovno, and then 
some no miles westward into the Kurisches Haff. From 
Grodno to Kovno the channel is deeply sunk and difficult 
to cross. There were in 1812 bridges at Grodno and Tilsit ; 
but at Kovno the Konigsberg-Vilna high-road was served 
only by a ferry. For the last 60 miles of its course the 
Niemen is in Prussian territory. It thus became extremely 
important for Napoleon as soon as he had occupied its 
right bank. He had already collected a large flotilla of 
gunboats and barges, under Rear-Admiral Baste, in the 
ports of the Frisches and Kurisches Haffs, and was able 
therefore to bring immense quantities of supplies from 
his advanced depots to Kovno and thence to Vilna. 

For about 100 miles south-westward from Grodno 
there was no natural frontier ; thence to the Austrian 
border it was formed by the Bug, which, issuing from 
Galicia below the town of Sokal, flows northward for 
some no miles to Brest-Litovsk, and then north-west- 
ward for 70 miles more to what was in 1812 the Polish 



border. For nearly 100 miles near Brest-Litovsk the 
Pinsk Marshes close in upon the river. The Austro- 
Russian border need not be c onsidered r ~7o r it was 
neutralised ; Schwarzenberg operated only as an 
auxiliary, in Poland. Trade continued as usual, and 
when Admiral Chichagov's army passed close along the 
frontier on its way to attack Schwarzenberg it was not 
molested by Russia's nominal enemies. 

The first provinces on the right bank of the Niemen 
entered by the Grand ArmSe were Courland to the north 
and the various districts which had once formed the 
Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the southward. Lithuania 
was and is a region of woods and marshy plain land, 
broken in places, and intersected in every direction by 
streams flowing in deeply sunken channels. In the south 
there stretched inland from the Bug the famous marshes 
of Pinsk, one of the largest tracts of fenland in the world, 
extending as it does for some 300 miles east and west, by 
over 100 north and south. The soil, even when not 
actually swampy, was generally soft, and there were 
hardly any good roads. Towns were few ; the population 
was sparse and wretchedly poor. 

At distances varying from about 120 to over 300 miles 
eastward of the Bug and Niemen a second natural line 
is formed by the Diina and the Dnieper. The Diina 
rises near the Volga, flows roughly south-west to Vitebsk, 
there turns west-north-west and runs for nearly 300 
miles to the Baltic at Riga. Above Vitebsk it is fairly 
often fordable during the summer heats. In 1812 it was 
bridged at Vitebsk and Dunaburg, half-way to Riga, but, 
since the left bank is generally higher than the right 
between these places, the river does not afford a good 
line of defence. 

From the Diina at Vitebsk southward to the Dnieper 
at Orsha is a gap of about 45 miles. At Orsha the Dnieper, 
one of the great rivers of Europe, turns to the southward, 
to flow for 800 miles into the Black Sea. Seventy miles 


above Orsha is Smolensk, where in 1812 there was a 
bridge. At Mohilev, 50 miles below Orsha, there was 
another. The river is rarely fordable even during the 
summer. Its tributary the Berezina, which was a most 
important strategic feature in the campaign, flows 
towards it on the east at an acute angle for 200 miles, 
joining at a point nearly due east of Warsaw and west of 
Orel. In 1812 there were bridges at Borisov and Bobruisk, 
but in general the river is fordable in summer. The right 
bank is usually higher than the left. 

Napoleon's advanced bases were the places on the 
Vistula, especially Danzig and Warsaw — though Danzig 
was infinitely the most important. The road from 
Danzig to the frontier divided at Wehlau ; the left 
branch going by Tilsit through Courland to Mitau and 
Riga, and thence to St. Petersburg ; the right by Inster- 
burg and Gumbinnen to the Niemen at Kovno, thence 
by Vilna, Ochmiana, Minsk, Borisov and Orsha, to 
Smolensk. From Mitau and Riga two roads converged 
on Jakobstadt, and then passed along the right bank of 
the Diina, by Dunaburg, Drissa, Desna and Polotsk, to 
Vitebsk, whence two or three roads led to Smolensk. 
From Polotsk and Smolensk ran roads north-westward 
to St. Petersburg. 

From Vilna a road led by Sventsiani and Glubokoie to 
Desna and Polotsk. From near Sventsiani a branch 
went to Dunaburg, and from Glubokoie another fork led 
by Lepel and Bechenkowiczi to Vitebsk. Cross-roads 
connected Vitebsk with Orsha, and Lepel with the 
Smolensk-Minsk road, half-way from Orsha to Bobr. 
From Orsha the main road to Kiev ran down the right 
bank of the Dnieper through Mohilev and Staroi Bykhov. 
From Bobr another road led to Bobruisk and thence into 
the Orsha-Mohilev-Kiev highway. A third road went 
from Bobruisk to Minsk by way of Igumen. 

The road eastward from Warsaw forked some 30 miles 
out, separating into two branches, which united again 


at Novi Svergen, 250 miles farther on. The southern 
branch proceeded by Brest-Litovsk, Slonim and Nesvizh ; 
the northern one passed by Bielsk, Bielostok, Grodno 
and Novogrodek. From Novi Svergen the road ran 
nearly north-eastward to Minsk, about 60 miles farther 
on. From Brest-Litovsk a road branched off to Lutsk, 
through the Pinsk Marshes. At Kobrin, some 30 miles 
farther on, a road pierced the marshes eastward, turning 
to the right about 30 miles short of Pinsk, and eventually 
coming out in the direction of Lutsk and Ostrog. A 
branch connected Pinsk with this road, and from Pinsk 
another highway led through the fens northward to 
Nesvizh. From Slonim a road led northward to Vilna, 
intersecting the Grodno road about a third of the way 
out, and another cross-road connected the two Warsaw 
roads, east of Grodno, by way of Volkovisk. Finally a 
road led from Nesvizh by Slutsk to Bobruisk, and from 
the latter place another passed through the eastern end 
of the Pinsk fens by Mozyr-on-Pripet to Kiev. There 
were, of course, many minor roads or tracks, but these 
were practically all that could be used for military 
purposes, and most of them were inferior. From 
Smolensk eastward the road system became, so far as the 
campaign was concerned, very simple, consisting merely 
of a single trunk leading to Moscow. 

Russian high-roads are commonly of considerable 
breadth, so that it was possible for vehicles to move upon 
them several abreast. Both armies, however, were so 
encumbered by immense trains that their columns 
covered enormous lengths of road. 

With the exception of Moscow, Warsaw and Riga, 
there were no large towns, in the modern sense of the 
word, within the theatre of war, and even Riga can 
scarcely be regarded as one. Moscow had somewhat 
over 200,000 inhabitants, Warsaw about half as many. 
Vilna, Grodno, Minsk, Vitebsk and Smolensk had each 
from 20,000 to 30,000 inhabitants ; Kovno, Diinaburg, 


Mitau, Brest-Litovsk, Bielostok, Mohilev and Bobruisk 
perhaps from 15,000 to 20,000 ; Polotsk possibly 15,000. 
Borisov, Orsha, Bobr, Smorgoni and many other places 
described as towns were merely villages — not often large 
villages, according to modern ideas. From Moscow to 
Smolensk, a distance of over 250 English miles, there 
were only three small towns, — Viasma, Gzhatsk and 
Dorogobuzh — and the largest of these had but about 
5000 inhabitants. 

While Napoleon was inspecting his depots, completing 
the organisation of his water transport, and setting in 
train the formation and pushing to the front of his 
numerous reserve forces, the Grand Army, now practically 
secure from Russian attack, was moving up to the 
Niemen. By the 12th of June the advance-guard of the 
10th Corps was at Tilsit, and the Imperial Guard and five 
army corps, besides three corps of the cavalry reserves, 
were steadily advancing behind towards the line of the 
Niemen between Tilsit and Kovno. The 5th and 8th 
Corps were in advance of Warsaw, and the 7th a little 
way in rear of it. The Emperor still expected that 
Bagration would invade the Grand Duchy, for on June 
10th he wrote to Eugene on that hypothesis. He also 
appears to have anticipated that Bagration's advance 
would be supported by at least a part of Barclay's army. 
At all events he speaks of a possible attack upon Eugene, 
which indicates that he looked for something like a 
general encounter along his whole front. 

He explained to Eugene that his echelon formation, 
with the left in advance, would enable him to take in 
flank the attack of the Russians directed against his 
right or centre. If Jerome were attacked, Eugene with 
the 4th and 6th Corps would be able to fall on the flank 
of the hostile columns, while if Eugene himself were 
assailed he could be supported at need by the whole left 
wing. All this certainly appears to point to the idea of a 
general Russian advance. Whether the somewhat 


complicated manoeuvres anticipated by the Emperor 
took sufficiently into account the inexperience of Eugene 
and Jerome, and the frightful Polish tracks by which 
they would be obliged to move, may be doubted. More- 
over, it is clear that their successful execution depended 
upon the Russian generals being so obliging as to play 
into Napoleon's hands. The armies, it must be remem- 
bered, were not yet in touch, and the Russians had 
perfect freedom to manoeuvre at will. 

By June 18th Napoleon had about 320,000 men 
(Imperial Guard, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 10th Corps 
d'Arrnee, and 1st, 2nd and 3rd Reserve Cavalry Corps) 
concentrated on a front of about 130 miles from Tilsit 
south-westward to the Prusso-Polish frontier. Thence 
to Warsaw stood the 5th, 7th and 8th Corps and the 4th 
Cavalry Corps — 80,000 men on a line of 80 miles. Finally, 
the Austrians, 34,000 strong, constituted the detached 
right flank-guard, marching from Zamosc by Lublin on 

Total 434,000 combatants, 1076 guns. 

The Russians were cantoned as follows : The First 
Army was strategically disposed in a main body, a 
reserve, and two semi-independent wings. The 1st Corps 
(Wittgenstein) constituted the right wing, about Rossieni, 
some 100 miles north-west of Vilna, and nearly opposite 
to Napoleon's detached left flank-guard, under Macdonald, 
at Tilsit. About Lida, 60 miles south of Vilna, on the 
road to Slonim, stood the 6th Corps (Dokhturov) and 
the 3rd Cavalry Corps (Pahlen II), forming the left 
wing, under Dokhturov. The 2nd Corps (Baggohufwudt), 
the 3rd (Tuchkov I) and the 4th (Shuvalov) were guard- 
ing the line of the Niemen above and below Kovno, on a 
front of about 60 miles. The 1st Cavalry Corps (Uvarov) 
was at Vilkomirz, 40 miles north-north-west of Vilna, 
and the 2nd (Korff) at Smorgoni, nearly 50 miles on the 
road to Minsk. The 5th Corps (H.I.H. the Grand Duke 
Constantine) formed the general reserve at Sventsiani, 


about 45 miles north-east of Vilna. The " Flying Corps " 
of Cossacks under the Ataman Platov was pushed 
forward to the frontier about Grodno, 60 miles west of 
Lida. The First Army, including Platov, numbered 
some 126,000 men, including 19,000 regular cavalry and 
584 guns. 

Of the two army corps which composed the Second 
Army the 8th (Borozdin I) was at Volkovisk, 60 miles 
south-south-west of Lida, and the 7th (Raievski) at Novi 
Dvor, 20 miles farther south. The 4th Cavalry Corps 
(Sievers), and about 4000 Cossacks, under General 
Ilovaiski, connected the two. The newly formed 27th 
Division (Neverovski) which was marching from Moscow 
to join Bagration, had not yet passed Minsk. Including 
it the Second Army comprised about 47,000 men, includ- 
ing 7000 regular cavalry, and 168 guns. 

The Third Army was widely dispersed and could not 
take the field for some weeks. It numbered in all perhaps 
45,000 men. 

Thus, owing to various causes — divided counsels, 
imperfect organisation, bad roads and especially the lack 
of any real command-in-chief — the Russian forces were, 
almost up to the very moment of hostile contact, in a 
state of dangerous dispersion. The secret history of the 
months during which Alexander had been at Vilna will 
probably never be accurately known. Dissension and 
intrigue were rampant in the Tzar's personal entourage. 
Much valuable time was wasted in drafting and discuss- 
ing plans of action, all impracticable, because based 
upon hypotheses which proved untenable. They all 
considerably underestimated Napoleon's fighting strength, 
and appear to have assumed a concentration of the 
Russian forces about Vilna. There was great disorder in 
the higher commands. Barclay was nominally commander- 
in-chief, but Alexander frequently issued orders, through 
his adjutant, Prince Volkonski, over the head of the 
harassed War-Minister, while to make confusion worse 


confounded Phull, as Clausewitz expresses it, " some- 
times put in his oar." Contrary to the usually accepted 
belief, it appears that Barclay would have preferred to 
stand to fight, granted a favourable opportunity. The 
deciding factor in the situation seems to have been that 
almost at the last moment the Russian staff obtained 
better information as to the strength which Napoleon 
had with him in Prussia. 

At all events the party of prudence finally obtained 
the upper hand in the Tzar's councils. The policy of 
retreating before the invader had been so often dis- 
cussed that there was nothing unexpected in the. resolu- 
tion which was adopted. It was determined to draw 
back the whole First Army at least as far as Sventsiani. 
All the corps commanders were warned to be ready to 
retreat thither immediately upon receiving orders, 
except Wittgenstein, who was given permission to antici- 
pate them if pressed by a rapid advance of Napoleon's 
extreme left wing over the Niemen. Platov, it was 
vaguely supposed, would be able to threaten Napoleon's 
communications, and would be supported by Bagration 
from Volkovisk. Tormazov, with the Third Army, was 
to retreat on Kiev if hard pressed ; but, if not, was to 
leave General Sacken with his incomplete division to 
observe the Austrian frontier, and with the rest of his 
army to fall upon the right of the forces which were 
opposed to Bagration. General Okunev, in his com- 
mentaries upon the war, suggests that Bagration and 
Tormazov should have effected a junction and advanced 
in force against Napoleon's communications while he 
was engaged in front with Barclay. As, however, 
Napoleon could detach 80,000 men, under Eugene, to 
support the 114,000 whom he already had in the Grand 
Duchy, Bagration, Tormazov and Platov would eventu- 
ally be outnumbered by at least two to one ; while 
Napoleon would still have possessed a double superiority 
of numbers over Barclay. In fact the Russians were so 


enormously outmatched at every point that retreat was 
the only sensible strategy. Napoleon, it is true, assumed 
that the Russians would stand to fight. This was partly, 
no doubt, due to mistaken but not unreasonable calcula- 
tions as to their state of preparation, but also largely, it 
is to be feared, to the obstinate optimism which during 
his latter years became something like an acute mental 
disease with him. He had developed a fatal habit of 
believing that his enemies would always play into his 

Accordingly, still proceeding on the assumption that 
Bagration would invade the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, 
while Barclay stood fast to oppose his own advance 
upon Vilna, the French Emperor decided to operate the 
passage of the Niemen close to Kovno. Kovno lies at 
Htne confluence of the Vilia, the river of Vilna, with the 
Niemen, and was therefore admirably adapted for the 
collection of stores by water from Danzig and Konigs- 
berg, and forwarding them to Vilna as soon as that place 
and the surrounding country were in Napoleon's power. 
In point of fact the Vilia proved too sinuous and difficult 
to be of much utility, but this could hardly be known at 
the time, and in any case did not greatly affect the value 
of Kovno as a base. The forest of Pilwiski or Wilkowiski, 
extending over a considerable area on the bank of the 
river opposite Kovno, furnished an excellent screen for 
Napoleon's operations. Finally, by bridging the river 
and debouching rapidly in the direction of Vilna, Barclay 
might be separated from his detached right wing under 
Wittgenstein. All this obviously assumed that the 
Russians would remain stationary. 

On June 22nd Jerome was directed to be at Augustowo 
on the 25th. On that day his three corps were extended 
along the Warsaw- Augustowo road, and the head of the 
5th Corps, which was leading, was nearly 50 miles away. 
The 8th was still farther behind, and the 7th as yet in 
the neighbourhood of Warsaw, awaiting the Austrians, 


who were slowly advancing from Lublin. Nappleorijwas 
probably misinformed as to distances,. and certainly had 
not taken into full consideration the wretched Polish 
roads. He apparently calculated upon being able to 
throw his main body suddenly across the Niemen at 
Kovno, deal a smashing blow at Barclay and then wheel 
round to crush Bagration. 

Fortunately for the Russians they had now decided 
to do the right thing, and had no intention of awaiting 
their enemies' pleasure. The three corps on the Niemen 
were drawn back to Vilna, leaving only a light cavalry 
screen along the right bank. Wittgenstein retired from 
Rossieni to Keidani, 40 miles nearer Vilna. On June 
23rd, therefore, Barclay had four corps echeloned on a 
line of 70 miles, nearly two marches from the Niemen at 
its nearest point ; and, as all were ready to retreat on 
Sventsiani at the shortest notice, Napoleon's plans were 
already half disconcerted. Irresolution, however, clung 
to the Russian counsels, and Dokhturov was still left in 
a dangerously isolated position at Lida. 

On the 22nd Napoleon, being himself at Wilkowiski, 
about 40 miles from Kovno, drafted a proclamation to 
the army which may be regarded as the official declaration 
of war. It was of the usual Napoleonic type, chiefly 
compounded of false statements and prophecies which 
were never fulfilled. Mr. Hereford George is probably 
correct in pronouncing that " a more unfortunate docu- 
ment was perhaps never penned." 

On the afternoon of the 23rd Napoleon had under his 
hand opposite Kovno in the Pilwiski Forest some 214,000 
men, comprising the Imperial Guard, the reserve parks 
and engineers, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Corps d'Armee, 
and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Corps of Reserve Cavalry. 
At Tilsit, in line with the main body, was the 10th Corps, 
under Macdonald. Eugene, with the 4th and 6th Corps, 
was still some 60 miles to the right rear, and could 
hardly reach the Niemen near Kovno before the 28th. 


General Bonnal appears to consider that his absence 
materially contributed to the failure of the Emperor's 
strategy, but ir>is a little difficult entirely to agree with 
him. Even had the situation been as Napoleon imagined 
it, with the Russians extended in a long, thin line upon 
the frontier, Eugene's absence could not have fatally 
influenced results. The invaders, with their over- 
whelming numerical superiority, could not fail of success. 
Without Eugene Napoleon had 247,000 men in all 
opposed to Barclay's 120,000. Bagration could hardly 
under any circumstances have gained more than a 
temporary success over the head of the long column of 
divisions marching from Lublin to Augustowo, and as 
yet not disquieted by Tormazov on its rear. Given 
that Reynier and Schwarzenberg were forced to turn 
back to face Tormazov — as did ultimately happen — 
Jerome would still have over 60,000 regulars against 
Bagration's 36,000 ; and Eugene's retardation would 
place him in a favourable position for supporting him. 
It is even permissible to argue that Eugene's absence 
was rather a favourable circumstance than otherwise, 
since the knowledge that Napoleon was short of over 
70,000 men might have induced Barclay to stand to give 
battle, which was precisely what Napoleon desired. 

As a fact the situation was quite other than Napoleon 
envisaged it. Had all his corps been in position to time, 
the manoeuvre of Vilna would still have failed. Had 
Jerome, with his whole force, reached Augustowo on the 
25th June, as contemplated, he could not have reached 
Grodno before the 27th. Volkovisk is nearly 50 miles 
farther on, and Bagration evacuated it on the 28th to 
retreat on Minsk. It was absolutely impossible for 
Jerome to reach him. Of Barclay's corps, the 1st was 
nearly two days' march from the Niemen, and Wittgen- 
stein had permission to retreat as soon as he had informa- 
tion of the French passage of the river. Baggohufwudt, 
Tuchkov and Shuvalov were still farther back, out of 


touch with the French, who could not reach them in less 
than two forced marches, even if they stood fast. 
Dokhturov alone was somewhat isolated, and ran con- 
siderable risk of being cut off from the main body. Still 
even had Dokhturov been cut from Barclay it is highly 
probable that the course of events would have been little 
different. A junction of the two Armies of the West 
would have eventually been effected, and it is possible 
that Barclay, short of 20,000 men, would not have made, 
as he did, at least one very perilous halt on his march to 

To conclude, when once the Russian commanders had 
determined to adopt a policy of steady retreat, and to 
adhere to it with more or less resolution, the campaign 
may almost be said to have decided itself. Napoleon 
was ever striving to obtain contact with his elusive foes 
and to fight the great battle which should crush the 
heart out of their resistance. But only thrice all through 
the advance was he able to establish this contact, and 
in each case the Russians drew away without having 
sustained decisive defeat. The first operations on the 
Niemen were typical of most of those which were to 

On June 23rd all the troops under Napoleon's im- 
mediate command were nearly opposite Kovno. Napoleon 
gave the strictest orders that only light cavalry were to 
approach the river ; infantry, artillery and heavy 
cavalry were to be kept under cover in the forest, so as 
to conceal from the enemy until the last moment the 
exact direction in which the blow was to be dealt. 
Meanwhile the river was reconnoitred for a point of 
passage, and a bend between Kovno and the village of 
Poniemon, a little higher up, was selected by General 
Haxo, Davout's chief of engineers. 

At daybreak on the 23rd Napoleon in person arrived 
in his travelling carriage at the bivouacs of the 1st 
Cavalry Corps. He descended at that of the 6th Polish 


Lancers, and, still anxious to conceal everything from 
the Russians until the last moment, removed his famous 
Guard uniform and cocked hat, and donned the coat of a 
Polish officer — an example followed by the staff-officers 
with him. Count Soltyk, an officer of the Lancers, has 
minutely described the episode. Napoleon's strong 
common sense appears in his refusal of the heavy Polish 
cavalry shako, and acceptance of a cap instead. He 
then rode forward to a village directly opposite Kovno, 
and carefully reconnoitred the place from the windows 
of the house of the village doctor. Returning to the 
Lancers' bivouac, he made a hasty meal, chatting mean- 
while with the Polish officers, and especially asking if 
their uniform suited him. He then resumed his own 
garments and rode off to reconnoitre the course of the 
river elsewhere. He approved Haxo's selection of 
Poniemon, and issued elaborate orders for the passage. 
They obviously imply that vigorous resistance was 
anticipated ; nothing was yet known of the Russian 
retirement on Vilna. They also contain much minute 
regulation of detail, which might well have been left to 
Haxo or Davout. 

During the afternoon and evening the 1st Corps was 
brought up to Poniemon, whither the pontoon trains, 
under General Eble, were also despatched. Three 
bridges, about 300 yards apart, were to be thrown 
across. As soon as it was completely dark — that is to 
say, about 10 p.m. — General Morand, the commander of 
the 1st Division, crossed in person with three companies 
of Voltigeurs and one of Sappers, who were ferried over 
in boats. As they were disembarking they were detected 
by the nearest Russian picket — a detachment of the 
Hussars of Yelisabetgrad. They rode up to the mustering 
Voltigeurs, and their leader challenged in French : " Qui 
vive ? " 

" France ! " came the reply. 

" What do you do here ? " asked the Russian officer. 


' You'll soon see ! " was the answer ; and the bold 
officer turned rein, to report to his superiors that the 
long-expected invasion had begun at last. His troopers 
emptied their carbines in the direction of the French 
party as they rode away, but apparently without effect ; 
and the Voltigeurs did not reply, Napoleon having issued 
orders that there was to be no firing except in case of 
extreme necessity. The bridges were completed by 
about 1 a.m. on the 24th, and Davout's corps began to 
defile across. There was no resistance ; the only ap- 
proach to fighting consisted in the interchange of a few 
shots between the advanced French troops and the rear- 
guards of the retreating Russian cavalry regiments. 
The day broke as the passage was in progress : it con- 
tinued practically without intermission all through the 
24th and 25th. As a military spectacle it has, perhaps, 
never been surpassed ; but the ease with which it had 
been effected was probably by no means entirely pleasing 
to Napoleon. He must have been unpleasantly conscious 
that the Russians had no intention of delivering them- 
selves into his hands, though he probably hoped that 
they would stand to fight in advance of Vilna. 

In the morning of the 24th Davout's 1st Light Cavalry 
Brigade, under Pajol, occupied Kovno, expelling the 
Cossack squadron which was the only garrison ; and in 
the afternoon Napoleon himself transferred his head- 
quarters thither. He ordered a permanent pile bridge 
to be constructed at the ferry, and threw another bridge 
over the Vilia, just above its confluence with the Niemen. 

The news of the invasion reached Alexander the same 
evening while he was at a garden party at General 
Bennigsen's mansion near Vilna. Next day he announced 
it to his army in a proclamation, and to the nation at 
large in another, addressed to Marshal Saltikov, Military 
Governor of St. Petersburg. The tone of both was worthy 
of the occasion, and contrasted strongly with the arrogant 
and theatrical ring of that of Napoleon. 


Orders were issued to all the corps commanders to 
retreat on Sventsiani. It was recognised that Platov 
alone could hardly achieve any serious damage to 
Napoleon's communications, and he also was directed to 
retire on Sventsiani by way of Lida and Smorgoni. 
Bagration was warned not to allow himself to be cut 
from Minsk. All the orders reached their destination 
safely, except those to Major-General Dorokhov who, 
with the advance-guard of the 4th Corps, was at Orani, 
south-west of Vilna. The 3rd and 4th Corps retired 
leisurely to the suburbs of Vilna, which Barclay did not 
intend to evacuate until it became absolutely necessary. 

By the evening of the 25th the whole French army 
was over the Niemen and pushing forward to Vilna. 
Murat opened the march with the 1st and 2nd Cavalry 
Corps. Behind were the 1st and 3rd Corps, the 3rd 
Cavalry Corps, and the Imperial Guard, while the 2nd 
Corps had crossed the Vilia at Kovno and was marching 
along its right bank, thus forming the flank-guard of the 
advance on Vilna, and threatening to cut off Wittgen- 
stein towards Keidani. Davout and Ney had each 
detailed a foreign regiment to guard Kovno and the 
bridges. The 10th Corps was ordered to advance from 
Tilsit upon Rossieni, sweeping the right bank of the 
Niemen, and thus clearing the course of the river for 
Baste's supply flotillas, which were now collecting at 
Tilsit, whence they were pushed forward to Kovno. 

There was practically no fighting on the march to 
Vilna. The thin chain of Russian cavalry posts steadily 
retired as the French pressed forward : only a few shots 
were fired from time to time. Napoleon ^ hoped for a 

b attle a t Vilna, anH thp trnnpc m n HVTnfrp/l n \a i i Ink iU y 

after day to attain th e desired end, at great cost t o 
tnemaelves. for the weathe r was sultry^the roa dsjatere 
bad, and the provision trains were already falling to the 
rear. The men began to leave the ranks in order to 
forage for supplies, and the horses, ill-fed and over- 


worked, broke down and died in great numbers. Even 
the artillery was ill-horsed from the first, and the officers 
were forced to scour the country for draft animals, often 
with very little success. Barclay was in position before 
Vilna with the 3rd Corps and most of the 4th, and 
Baggohufwudt was in touch to the north ; but Alexander 
and his suite had already left for Sventsiani, and Barclay 
was merely waiting until the French began to close. The 
stores which could not be carried off were. destroyed, and 
at 4 a.m. on the 28th the 3rd and 4th Corps began to 
defile through the town. Barclay and his staff left about 
1 p.m. ; and the rear-guard followed, burning the bridge 
over the Vilia. Bruyere's cavalry division, which was 
heading the French advance, came through the town 
before Barclay's cavalry rear-guard was quite clear of the 
suburbs ; and its leading regiment, the 8th Hussars, was 
charged and driven back, with the loss of several prisoners, 
by the Cossacks of the Imperial Guard. The Russian 
columns were well on their way to Sventsiani, and after 
three days of forced marching in tropical weather the 
French impulse had expended its forGe. 

On the same day a more serious skirmish took place 
near Vilkomirz. Wittgenstein, falling back from Keidani, 
heard that Oudinot was marching up the right bank of 
the Vilia and, fearing that he might be anticipated at 
Vilkomirz, stationed his rear-guard, under Major-General 
Kulnev (4 battalions, 4 squadrons, 1 Cossack regiment 
and 6 guns), on the 27th at Develtova, requesting General 
Uvarov to support him with a regiment of Dragoons. 
Meanwhile the 1st Corps defiled through Vilkomirz on 
the Sventsiani road. As Kulnev, in his turn, was retiring 
through the place from Develtova, he was attacked by 
Castex with Oudinot 's advanced guard. The French 
cavalry charged the Russian Hussars and Cossacks and 
drove them into the town with considerable loss, but 
Kulnev succeeded in withdrawing his force across the 
Vilia, and burnt the bridge, and Castex could only 


cannonade the Russians until the arrival of infantry. 
Uvarov's cavalry regiment, marching rather carelessly 
to join Kulnev along the river-bank, came under artillery 
fire and lost several men and horses. When Oudinot's 
infantry began to arrive Kulnev followed his chief. He 
had lost about 300 men, including 240 prisoners. 
Oudinot reported a loss of 50 killed and wounded. The 
2nd Corps occupied Vilkomirz, and bivouacked for the 
night some 2 miles on the Sventsiani road. 

Napoleon himself entered Vilna in the afternoon of 
the 28th. Alexander had sent his aide-de-camp, General 
Balashov, with a final message to his opponent, offering 
to reopen negotiations if the French troops withdrew 
across the Niemen. Napoleon, with his usual dramatic 
instinct, received Balashov in the quarters which 
Alexander had lately quitted. Needless to say, nothing 
came of the interview. Napoleon regarded the message 
as an insult, or at best as an attempt to gain time. He 
merely wrote a long letter to Alexander repeating all his 
real or imagined grounds for the war. Danilevski says 
that Balashov was directed to tell Napoleon that if he 
declined to listen to Alexander's last overtures he must 
expect war to the death. It is also said that Napoleon 
asked questions concerning the roads to Moscow. Bala- 
shov replied that there were several, and His Majesty 
might do as other monarchs had done, and choose. 
Charles XII, for example, had taken the road that led 
by way of Poltava ! 

Napoleon had, in fact, little reason for satisfaction. 
He had, as he hoped, debouched suddenly into the midst 
of his opponent's line of defence ; he had collected 
enormous forces upon his chosen point of attack, and had 
carefully concealed it until the last moment. His troops 
had made tremendous exertions to carry out his strategy. 
And yet hardly anything had in reality been achieved. 
He was in possession of his enemy's empty head-quarters, 
and that was all. His army had suffered severely in the 


impetuous rush upon Vilna, while that of Russia had 
quietly withdrawn out of his reach. The carefully 
planned blow, which was to have been crushing, had been 
wasted upon the empty air. 

On the 29th there was a violent thunderstorm, followed 
by five days of continuous rain. The results were most 
disastrous. Movements of troops, though much impeded, 
were not absolutely checked ; but the vast trains on the 
Vilna-Kovno road were entirely disorganised. The bad 
roads and tracks became little better than quagmires. 
The horses broke down completely under the additional 
strain, especially since the country could supply very 
little fodder to replace that left behind in abandoned 
vehicles. The defects of the transport became evident. 
The waggons were too heavy for the bad Polish roads, 
and in order to forward any supplies at all they had to 
be replaced by country carts, which were only capable of 
carrying much smaller loads. The natural consequences 
were a shortage of food supplies, and much marauding 
in quest of them. The Lithuanians, whom the French 
were supposed to be freeing from the Russian yoke, were 
maltreated and plundered everywhere by their so-called 
deliverers. Requisitions, however unsparing, entirely 
failed to re-establish the wrecked transport. The army 
was so huge, its encumbrances so enormous, that the 
poverty-stricken country could not supply the number 
of draft animals needed. The artillery alone left 120 
guns or more and hundreds of waggons at Vilna owing 
to lack of horses. The number of the latter lost may be 
conservatively estimated at 10,000 ; and some 30,000 
soldiers were straggling about the country, marauding 
for food and committing every kind of outrage. 

Napoleon himself remained in Vilna for over a fort- 
night. The 4th and 6th Corps had only just reached the 
Niemen, and it was absolutely necessary to bring up to 
the front the magazines from Konigsberg. He also 
wished to organise Lithuania, or rather to exploit it. A 


provisional government of French partisans was set up 
at Vilna ; garrisons were distributed ; and officials 
placed over the various towns and districts. The first 
act of the Government was to order levies of horse and 
foot for Napoleon's service ; one cavalry regiment was 
to consist entirely of Lithuanian squires, and to be 
attached to the Imperial Guard. Otherwise the Govern- 
ment could exercise practically no civil functions ; its 
duties were simply such as arose from the military 
occupation of the country. The peasants were reduced 
to abject misery by endless requisitions, and by the 
lawless violence of the stragglers who swarmed every- 
where. The French sous-prefet of Novi Troki, a place 
less than 20 miles from Vilna, was plundered and stripped 
by marauding soldiers on his way thither, and if such an 
event could take place within a day's march of Napoleon's 
head-quarters, the state of affairs farther afield may be 
imagined. Napoleon's stringent orders against pillage 
and disorder were little better than useless. The pillage 
arose simply from lack of food, and the latter was the 
natural outcome of the fact that the expedition was too 
large to work in the existing conditions. Napoleon had 
taken immense pains to organise it, and up to a point he 
had foreseen and provided for everything. But he had 
not taken into full account physical difficulties : he had, 
amongst other blunders, organised a wheeled transport 
for which roads hardly existed, and he had failed to 
perceive that the vast magnitude of his enterprise 
automatically created fresh obstacles to success, or at 
any rate enormously increased those which already 

Though on reaching Vilna Napoleon must have realised 
that his strategy had already in part miscarried, he at 
once entered upon the execution of the second part of 
the plan — the crushing of Bagration's army which, as he 
hoped, was already closely pressed by Jerome. As a 
fact Bagration left Volkovisk that very day for Minsk, 


while Jerome did not reach Grodno until the 30th. So 
far as Jerome was concerned, therefore, Bagration was in 
no danger, and it was only the vacillation at the Russian 
Imperial head-quarters which later brought him within 
measurable distance of destruction. There were other 
forces within Bagration's sphere of operations which the 
French Emperor might hope to sweep also into his net. 
Platov, from Grodno, could hardly hope to reach the 
First Army with the French in force at Vilna ; while the 
advance-guard of the 4th Corps, after waiting at Orani 
for orders until the 27th, was also isolated. A more 
important quarry than either of these, however, was 
Barclay's detached left wing under Dokhturov, which 
had only just started from the neighbourhood of Lida, 
having of course received its orders last. 

Napoleon therefore ordered the following movements : 
Oudinot, supported by Doumerc's Cuirassier Division 
from Grouchy's Corps, was to follow Wittgenstein from 
Vilkomirz towards Sventsiani. Murat, with Montbrun's 
Cavalry Corps and Friant's and Gudin's Infantry Divisions, 
was directed to pursue Barclay's central columns. 
Nansouty, with two of his three divisions and Morand's 
Infantry Division, was directed upon Svir, nearly due 
east of Vilna, with the object of falling on the flank of 
Dokhturov's column. Davout with his 4th and 5th 
Divisions, Pajol's Cavalry Brigade, the Lancers of the 
Guard, Grouchy's two remaining cavalry divisions, 
Valence's Cuirassier Division from Nansouty's Corps, and 
the Legion of the Vistula, about 45,000 men in all, was 
to advance upon Minsk and intercept the retreat of 
Bagration. Davout 's other light cavalry brigade (Borde- 
soulle) was sent south-westward from Vilna to scout in 
that direction, and on the 30th encountered Dorokhov's 
detachment, which he took for the rearguard of Baggohuf- 
wudt's Corps. Dorokhov, seeing that French troops 
were now at Vilna, retreated southward in the hope of 
joining Platov and, ultimately, Bagration. 


Meanwhile Davout and Dokhturov, advancing on con- 
verging lines, were rapidly approaching. Dokhturov was 
marching from Lida in two columns, and on the 30th his 
left flank-guard, consisting of a brigade of Pahlen's 
cavalry, under General Kreutz, reached Ochmiana on 
the Vilna-Minsk road just as Pajol 's brigade was ap- 
proaching from Vilna. The danger must, to the Russian 
generals, have appeared very great, and had they not 
shown extraordinary energy it would have been so, for 
although Davout's infantry was considerably in rear of 
Pajol it could easily arrive next day and assail the left 
flank of Dokhturov's column as it crossed the road. 
Dokhturov however, as on another and greater emergency, 
rose to the occasion. He called upon his men for a great 
effort ; and on the 1st of July the 6th Corps and Pahlen's 
cavalry crossed the Vilna-Minsk road just ahead of 
Davout's advancing columns, and pressed on towards 
Sventsiani. There was some brisk skirmishing at 
Ochmiana between Kreutz and Pajol ; but at night the 
bulk of Dokhturov's force had reached Svir, after a 
splendid forced march of 28 miles on an execrable road, 
with a loss of only some scores of men and a few retarded 
baggage-waggons. During the march of the 2nd the 
trains were harassed by Nansouty's advanced guard and 
a portion of them captured, but that evening Dokhturov 
was in line with the rest of the First Army about Svent- 
siani. His prompt decision, admirably seconded by the 
steadiness and fine marching of his troops, had extricated 
him safely from a very dangerous position. 

Meanwhile Barclay and Wittgenstein had operated 
their retreat from Vilna and Vilkomirz with little diffi- 
culty, and with hardly any fighting. On the 2nd of July 
the First Army about Sventsiani numbered about 114,000 
men ; but the Tzar's advisers had now definitely decided 
not to fight before reaching the Diina. The magazines 
which could not be carried away were burned ; and on 
the 3rd the retreat was continued, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 


5th Corps retiring directly on Drissa, covered by a rear- 
guard under Korff, while Wittgenstein and Dokhturov 
fell back on the wings. 

The retreat was conducted steadily and with no great 
haste. Alexander and Phull were impatient for the 
arrival of the army at Drissa, and the latter sent Clau- 
sewitz, afterwards the historian of the war, to hasten the 
march. Barclay, who knew better than Phull the 
demoralising effects of a hasty retreat, was very angry, 
and declined to hurry. On the 5th there was a slight 
action at Davigelishki between Sebastiani's leading 
brigade under Subervie and Korff 's cavalry rear-guard. 
The French were repulsed, and Prince von Hohenlohe, 
the Colonel of the 3rd Wurttemberg Chasseurs, was 
captured. On the 6th and 8th, however, the Russians 
made night marches and distanced their pursuers ; and 
on the nth the whole of the Russian centre and left were 
at Drissa, while Wittgenstein was at Druia, a little 
lower down the Diina. There were at Drissa and 
Diinaburg 19 reserve battalions, all very weak, and 20 
fairly strong depot squadrons. Most of them were 
assigned to Wittgenstein, who formed them into pro- 
visional regiments. 

Eugene and St. Cyr reached the Niemen on the 29th of 
June, and crossed at Prenn on the 30th, one of the pontoon 
bridges from Kovno being used for the purpose. Thence 
they marched for Vilna, the 4th Corps leading. The 
roads were frightfully bad ; the rain poured in torrents 
without intermission, and, to add to their other miseries, 
the men were half-starved, the trains being even less able 
to keep up with the march than they had been a few days 
before. Eugene reached Novi Troki on the 4th, and 
there rested for two days. St. Cyr had halted about 
half-way from the Niemen. On the 30th Poniatowski 
and Latour-Maubourg reached Grodno. King Jerome, 
with the 8th Corps, was near Augustowo. Reynier, with 
the 7th, was at Bielsk on the Warsaw-Bielostok road ; 


and Schwarzenberg, advancing with characteristic slow- 
ness and caution, some way east of Warsaw. Reynier's 
special duty was to cover Warsaw, and Jerome could not 
therefore count upon him until he had been relieved by 
the Austrians. On the 30th Jerome received orders to 
march on Ochmiana — this was under the impression 
that Dokhturov's corps, which had just reached that 
place, was the army of Bagration. Next day, however, 
he received fresh directions. Napoleon had ascertained 
the real identity of the troops at Ochmiana and now 
ordered his brother to direct the 5th and 8th Corps upon 
Minsk, and the 7th upon Nesvizh. It is obvious that these 
contradictory directions must have harassed and confused 
the inexperienced general whom his brother's will had 
placed in command of three army corps ; and his chief-of- 
staff Marchand, a good enough divisional leader, was 
hardly the man to make good his chief's deficiencies. 
Jerome's troops were so exhausted by the march from 
Warsaw, over bad roads and in pouring rain, that he felt 
himself obliged to give them a brief rest at Grodno. 
Reynier was delayed at the passage of the Narew, Platov 
having carefully destroyed all the boats. Minsk, 
Jerome's indicated objective, is nearly 180 miles from 
Grodno by Novogrodek and Mir, and Nesvizh 140 from 

Bagration left Volkovisk for Minsk late on June 28th. 
He expected to reach it on July 7th, but on the same day 
Davout was approaching Ochmiana, and could easily 
arrive before him. On the 30th, however, Colonel 
Benkendorff, one of Alexander's aides-de-camp, arrived 
with fresh orders, by which Bagration was to march 
upon Drissa to join Barclay. Bagration, unaware that 
Davout was already advancing on Minsk from Vilna, 
and probably believing that the order would not have 
been sent had not Napoleon been following Barclay with 
the bulk of his forces, decided to join his colleague by 
the shortest possible route. He reached Slonim on July 


1st, and on the 3rd arrived at Novogrodek, 40 miles on 
the Ochmiana road, where the 27th Division, marching 
from Minsk, joined him. Early on the 4th the 
head of the column was at Nikolaev-on-Niemen, and, 
although there were by no means too many pontoons, 
two bridges were thrown over the flooded river. The 
passage was begun as early as possible, and the 8th Corps 
was already across when reports arrived from Platov. 
He announced that he was at Vologin, some 20 miles 
from Nikolaev, that he was skirmishing with French 
cavalry, and that they belonged to Davout's Corps, 
which was marching on Minsk. Platov had reached 
Vologin on his way to join Barclay ; and there he was 
met by Dorokhov returning to effect a junction with 
Bagration at Minsk. 

On the 3rd Jerome's advance-guard had started east- 
ward from Grodno, and on the 4th his main body was at 
last under way. Contradictory orders and lack of infor- 
mation had led Bagration into a situation of grave 

The Second Army, with Platov and Dorokhov, counted 
now about 45,000 regulars, 9000 irregulars and 192 guns. 
Davout had about 42,000 men, but only 30,000 actually 
in hand. Jerome was advancing from Grodno with 
nearly 55,000 more ; his advance-guard was some 60 
miles from Novogrodek in Bagration's rear. 

Bagration, of course, estimated Davout's force as 
about 70,000 men — the original strength of the 1st 
Corps ; and probably reckoned Jerome's army at about 
equal numbers. After considering his position, he 
decided to make a dash for Minsk by way of the left bank 
of the Niemen and the Slonim-Minsk high-road, hoping 
that Platov and Dorokhov would be able to impose on 
Davout and hinder his march until the 8th, by which 
date Bagration hoped to reach Minsk. The 8th Corps 
was hastily crossed back over the Niemen ; the pontoons 
were taken up ; and the Second Army pushed for the 


Minsk road beyond Mir, which it reached on the 6th, 
having covered nearly 40 miles in two days. 

As might have been expected, Platov's mass of 
irregulars and Dorokhov's small detachment could not 
for a moment withstand the march of Davout's column. 
When the French infantry pushed steadily forward the 
Cossacks could only withdraw, and Dorokhov was not 
strong enough to defend an open town against 30,000 
sabres and bayonets. Platov therefore retreated south- 
ward to join Bagration, and on the 7th Davout's advanced 
guard entered Minsk unopposed, Compans, Desaix and 
Valence arriving next day. He captured in the town 
over 300,000 pounds of flour, and a vast quantity of 
forage, as well as much barrack and hospital equipment. 
On the same day Colbert's Lancer Brigade, which was 
covering Davout's left flank and rear, entered Vileika, 
where he found 180,000 pounds of flour, 200,000 of biscuit, 
4500 bottles of spirits, and over 200 tons of forage, 
besides clothing and hospital stores. These captures 
were the first of any importance that had yet been made. 
The loss to the Russians was of far less importance 
than the gain to the French, upon whom inadequate 
supplies, hard marches, and trying climatic conditions 
had already had the worst effect. Even in the regiments 
of Davout's Corps, notoriously the best disciplined and 
administered of the army, disorder was rife. The Dutch 
33rd Leger was a prime offender. During the march to 
Minsk it left nearly half its numbers behind as marauders ; 
and eventually Napoleon was obliged to issue a special 
order against them. Davout's anger at its misconduct 
vented itself for days in his despatches and conversation ; 
and, as was but too often the case with him, he allowed 
it to exceed the bounds of consideration and decency. 
The result was a permanent breach between himself 
and Desaix. 

Bagration at Mir learned that Davout, greatly his 
superior in numbers as he believed, was across his path 


at Minsk, while Jerome's advance-guard was ap- 
proaching Novogrodek, and Reynier was on the march 
from Bielostok to Slonim. He decided, rightly under the 
circumstances as they presented themselves to him, to 
march for the Berezina at Bobruisk, which, as we have 
seen, was fortified, and thence make for the Diina by 
way of Mohilev and Orsha on the Dnieper. A more 
perilous march can hardly be imagined, for it would take 
him right across the front of the French columns moving 
eastward from Vilna and Minsk. Bagration, however, 
expected that Davout's objective was Bobruisk, as appears 
by his action a few days later, and evidently hoped to get 
round his left flank. On July 7th the 8th Corps marched 
to Nesvizh on the Brest-Litovsk-Bobruisk high-road, 
and the 7th to Novi-Svergen on that to Minsk, in order 
to rally Dorokhov, while Plato v, with some Cossacks 
and one of Raievski's infantry regiments, took post at 
Mir to guard the road from Novogrodek against Jerome. 
On the 8th Raievski joined Borozdin, and both corps 
remained at Nesvizh until the 10th. A halt was impera- 
tive to rest the weary troops, who had marched over 
150 miles in nine days, on wretched roads and in generally 
terrible weather ; and it was also necessary to enable 
the jaded trains to get well forward on the road to 
Bobruisk. Bagration was fuming at the necessity for 
continual retreat, and on the 8th wrote an excited letter 
on the subject to Count Arakcheiev. 

On the same day Jerome's advance-guard, Rosniecki's 
Polish Cavalry Division, reached Novogrodek. On the 
9th the bulk of the 5th and 8th Corps arrived, Reynier 
reached Slonim from Bielostok, and Rosniecki started 
for Mir. On that day his leading brigade under General 
Turno came in contact with Platov, and a brisk action 
ensued, as the result of which the Poles were driven 
back with a loss of over 100 prisoners, besides killed and 

Next day Bagration started Borozdin with the divisions 



of Neverovski and Prince Karl of Mecklenburg on the 
road to Bobruisk. He kept the 7th Corps still at Nesvizh 
to give the men another day's rest, and held back Voron- 
zov's division to support Plato v if necessary, reinforcing 
the latter with one regiment of infantry and three of 
cavalry, under Major-General Vassilchikov. 

Platov had already evacuated Mir and drawn back 
towards Nesvizh. On the 10th he was attacked by 
Rosniecki, and a cavalry action on a large scale ensued. 
Rosniecki had with him six regiments — some 3300 
lances and sabres, while Tyskiewicz's brigade, about 
1200 more, was at Mir. Platov and Vassilchikov had at 
their immediate disposal at least 2000 regular cavalry 
and 3000 Cossacks. Rosniecki's first two brigades, 
including that of Turno, and Vassilchikov' s regulars 
crashed together in a furious hand-to-hand combat, 
with fairly equal fortune ; but the third brigade coming 
up in support was enveloped by a cloud of Cossacks and 
broken. Thereupon the whole division was forced to 
give ground, hotly pressed by the Russian Hussars, 
Dragoons and Cossacks. A complete rout was only 
averted by the gallant advance of Tyskiewicz's brigade, 
which covered the retreat and enabled the broken 
regiments to rally near Mir. The Russians thereupon 
drew off. They had suffered considerably, and two 
Cossack colonels had been killed. But the Poles had lost 
over 700 men, and it may be imagined that the morale 
of the Polish army was considerably shaken. 

On the nth Raievski and Voronzov evacuated Nesvizh 
and marched some 20 miles to Romanovo, while Platov 
fell back on Nesvizh. On the 12th Bagration made 
another long march to Slutsk, while Platov followed to 

At Slutsk Bagration learned that French troops had 
been located at Svislocz on the Berezina, about 27 miles 
north of Bobruisk. The inference was that Davout 
was marching to anticipate him at the latter place. He 


sent forward Raievski at once to the threatened fortress 
with the 7th Corps and some cavalry and Cossacks, 
while the 8th waited at Slutsk for the arrival of Platov. 

Romanovo lay on the small river Morvez, which was 
there spanned by a bridge. The advance-guard of 
Jerome's army was formed on the 14th, as before, by 
Rosniecki's division and Tyskiewicz's brigade ; Latour- 
Maubourg, with the German and Polish Cuirassiers 
forming the rest of his cavalry corps, was following some 
distance to the rear. Platov had part of his force in 
advance of the bridge, and as Tyskiewicz's brigade came 
on it was suddenly charged, cut up and driven back. The 
Russians then retired across the bridge, and Rosniecki, 
following, plunged into a heavy cross-fire from Platov's 
infantry regiment and horse artillery, and only extricated 
himself with severe loss. The whole division was thrust 
back in disorder until it reached Latour-Maubourg and 
his cuirassier division. The Polish losses had been very 
heavy ; the 1st Chasseurs had been practically destroyed. 
Platov took 300 prisoners. He knew better than to 
expose his irregulars and light horsemen to the charge 
of the Saxon and Westphalian Cuirassiers and retired 
in the night to Slutsk. This released Borozdin, who 
followed in the track of Raievski ; and in this way the 
Second Army, Raievski leading and Platov bringing up 
the rear, arrived at Bobruisk, where it was completely 
concentrated on the 18th. It had suffered much from 
fatigue and sickness during its long and painful marches, 
and Bagration felt it necessary to use six of the weak 
reserve battalions in the fortress to recruit his depleted 
regiments. But the Second Army was at least safe. A 
glance at the map will show that all the way from Nesvizh 
it had the Pinsk morasses on its right ; and had Jerome 
and Davout been able to combine their attacks, the result 
to it might well have been fatal. 

In following Bagration on his march to Bobruisk the 
course of events elsewhere has been somewhat antici- 


pated. On July 14th King Jerome had thrown up his 
command. A little previously he had quarrelled with 
Vandamme, who commanded the 8th Corps under him. 
Vandamme was a man whose general character is entitled 
to no kind of respect. His conduct in Germany had been 
abominable. He was, however, a thorough soldier, and 
could not endure Jerome's easy-going ideas of military 
discipline. The consequence was an open quarrel and 
the supersession of Vandamme. Napoleon, who knew 
his insubordinate disposition, did not traverse Jerome's 
action. But the delay at Grodno and the failure to close 
with Bagration kindled his wrath, all the more so since 
his own immediate operations had miscarried. He 
vented his rage and disappointment in two violently 
abusive letters, and Jerome left the army. 

As regards the degree of blame which attaches to 
Jerome, it is obvious that, but for the ill-advised order 
to march upon Drissa, Bagration would have been in no 
danger. He left Volkovisk on June 28th ; Jerome did 
not even reach Grodno until the 30th. The vile Polish 
roads, rendered worse by the rain, made marching 
extremely difficult. A rest may well have been necessary 
for the overworked and ill-fed troops ; and Jerome was 
obliged to wait until Reynier had been relieved by the 
slowly advancing Austrians. Owing to the orders which 
he had received from head-quarters, Bagration all but 
marched into the midst of the forces manoeuvring to 
intercept him. It is clear that, had Jerome moved east- 
ward from Grodno at once, he would have pressed his 
antagonist hard. On the other hand, he had to take into 
account the harassed state of his troops, their lack of 
adequate supplies, the miserable roads, the absence of 
Reynier, the slowness of Schwarzenberg, and last, not 
least, the hidden Russian army of Tormazov, which 
might prove very formidable. Napoleon in his place 
would probably have taken the risk of an advance of 
Tormazov on Warsaw. Jerome did not, and, indeed, 


seeing his position as a subordinate, could not, do so. It 
is possible that he did not act with all the vigour which 
circumstances demanded ; but in that case the blame 
must be laid at the door of Napoleon for appointing to a 
vitally important command a man who lacked the 
necessary qualifications for it. Napoleon also was 
directing manoeuvres on the basis of hypotheses which 
might, and in fact did, prove unfounded. He appears 
rather to have ignored geographical and climatic con- 
ditions ; he was certainly ill-informed as to distances. 
Finally he was committing the same error which had 
already cost him dear in Spain, in endeavouring to direct 
complicated strategic manoeuvres from a distance ; and 
the optimism which was becoming a mental disease with 
him badly affected his calculations. 

The Emperor, apparently believing that Bagration 
was stronger than was actually the case, and that he 
might break northward, directed Eugene with the 4th 
Corps on July 7th in the track of Davout ; but soon 
becoming aware that his intelligence was false, recalled 
him to Smorgoni, where he arrived on the 12th. On the 
14th Eugene left to support the advance on Drissa, 
marching by way of Vileika, where the magazines 
captured by Colbert afforded supplies. Nevertheless 
food was invariably scanty. The wretched roads wore 
out the men, who fell sick or straggled in numbers. The 
horses fared still worse, and many died. St. Cyr, mean- 
while, had marched by Novi Troki to Vilna, whence he 
was directed by Glubokoie also on Drissa. The march 
of the unhappy Bavarians will later be alluded to. On 
July nth Napoleon ordered Mortier with part of the 
Guard also upon Glubokoie, and next day the first 
detachment of the Head-quarters Staff was directed 
thither. De Fezensac, who was with this detachment, 
notes that the Young Guard were already suffering from 
the effects of the tropical heat, scanty rations and 
fatigue — especially the newly formed " Flanqueurs- 


Chasseurs." Yet Napoleon in a letter of the nth suggests 
that Mortier can live on the country ! 

The 10th Corps, after clearing the right bank of the 
Niemen, had been directed north-eastward towards 
Mitau and Riga, which latter place it was destined to 
besiege. The operations of the 10th Corps were so 
isolated and otherwise of so languid a nature that they 
may for the moment be ignored. Here it is only necessary 
to observe that the 10th Corps was moving north-east- 
ward on a broad front, the Prussians advancing on 
Mitau, the 10th Division, Poles and Germans under 
Grandjean, on Dunaburg. At the latter place there was 
a bridge-head garrisoned by some reserve battalions. 

Davout, having occupied Minsk, remained there for 
some days. The halt was necessary in order to rally 
the stragglers and re-establish discipline. It was also 
utilised in commencing the organisation of Minsk as one 
of the main depots of the army, for which its situation 
at the intersection of the Warsaw-Moscow and Vilna- 
Kiev high-roads admirably fitted it. 

Davout had rightly inferred that his occupation of 
Minsk would oblige Bagration to retire upon Bobruisk. 
He might then endeavour to march up the left bank of 
the Berezina to the Minsk-Smolensk road at Borisov or 
Bobr, and thence press on to join Barclay. The Marshal 
accordingly sent forward his advance-guard, under 
Bordesoulle, to reconnoitre Borisov and occupy it if 
possible. He estimated Bagration's strength, from the 
reports of spies and peasants, at 16 to 18 regiments of 
infantry and 120 guns, besides cavalry. The evaluation 
was much below the truth, and gives the impression that 
his informants had only seen and counted the regiments 
of one of Bagration's two corps and the 27th Division. 

Borisov was undefended. Working parties were busy 
almost until the last on the entrenchments of the bridge- 
head ; but the only troops available to defend it were 
two skeleton battalions, which retired on the approach of 


the French to Mohilev. The place was occupied by 
Bordesoulle on the nth, and there and in the vicinity 
were taken a large amount of flour and forage, about 
80,000 pounds of salt, 16 spiked guns, 4000 cannon-balls 
and shells, some thousands of entrenching tools, and a 
quantity of hospital equipment and supplies. 

Davout's other cavalry brigade, under Pajol, was 
directed on Igumen, 35 miles south-east of Minsk, and 
thence also upon the Berezina. On the 13th it captured 
a Russian convoy of 180 waggons, which, however, being 
left slenderly guarded, was retaken next day by Cossacks. 
Pajol, meanwhile, occupied the crossings of the Berezina 
at Berezino and elsewhere, and awaited the arrival of 
Davout. He reconnoitred towards Bobruisk, and it 
was the presence of one of his detachments at Svislocz 
which alarmed Bagration and induced him to precipitate 
his march. 

Davout decided that to advance on Bobruisk would 
probably be waste of time, since Bagration could almost 
certainly reach the place before him. He therefore 
rightly determined to march for Mohilev, no miles east 
of Minsk, and only some 60 from Berezino. Bagration 
was on the 14th still two days' march west of Bobruisk 
with his advance-guard, while Borozdin and Plato v were 
yet farther off, and could not reach the fortress until the 
18th. Thence to Mohilev was four long days' march on 
bad roads, while Davout had a much shorter distance to 
traverse. Even if he reached Bobruisk before the 
Russians, they could cross the Berezina under cover of 
the fortifications. 

While Davout remained about Minsk, Grouchy, with 
his two cavalry divisions and Colbert's Lancers, sup- 
ported by Claparede's Polish Legion, was making a 
sweep northward and westward to the great bend of the 
Dnieper near Orsha. On the 14th he entered Lepel, 
48 miles north of Borisov, capturing large magazines of 
food-stuffs and forage, besides about 160 Russian prisoners. 


He then turned south-eastward to Orsha, which was 
occupied on the 18th without resistance. The magazines 
of provisions were even more important than those at 
Lepel, and a number of boats and pontoons were also 

The withdrawal of King Jerome left Davout in com- 
mand of the whole Napoleonic right wing. Napoleon 
had intended that the Marshal should assume chief 
command only when the junction of the two forces should 
be complete, and later he reprimanded him for doing so 
before it had been effected. It is difficult to perceive 
what other course lay open to Davout. He made various 
efforts to induce the offended King to retain his com- 
mand, but in vain : Jerome was thoroughly disgusted. 

Davout's advanced guard left Minsk on July 12th, 
and by the 15th his main body was concentrated near 
Igumen. Bagration's whole force could not reach 
Bobruisk until the 18th, the French thus had a long 
start in the race to Mohilev. The untrustworthy 33rd 
Leger was left to garrison Minsk. The 5th Corps and 
Latour-Maubourg were directed by Igumen on Mohilev, 
and the 8th, temporarily commanded by General 
Tharreau, by Minsk and Borisov on Orsha. 

The 7th Corps was ordered back to Slonim by Napoleon. 
The Emperor, deceived by Tormazov's long inactivity, 
had made up his mind that he need fear nothing from 
him. As a fact it was lack of preparation and the 
necessity for completing it which was keeping Tormazov 
inactive ; his army was very far from a sham. Napoleon, 
however, deciding that the 34,000 Austrians were un- 
necessary in that region, determined to call them up to 
the centre. Schwarzenberg had crossed the Bug at 
Mogilnitza on July 3rd, and a week later reached Pruzhani, 
60 miles on the Brest-Litovsk-Minsk road. Detachments 
occupied Pinsk and other places, and captured large 
supplies and immense quantities of salt. Otherwise the 
Austrians had been inactive. The spirit both of officers 


and men was decidedly hostile to the enterprise in which 
they were engaged, and though Schwarzenberg himself 
was a Francophile he was naturally very cautious, and 
probably under orders to do as little as possible. Such 
considerations would naturally incline Napoleon to wish 
to have the Austrians under his own eye. Reynier, with 
the 7th Corps, was to take Schwarzenberg' s place and 
cover the frontier of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. These 
plans, however, could not be executed, for on July 23rd 
the Russian Third Army appeared on the scene with 
momentous results, and both Schwarzenberg and Reynier 
had to be diverted to check it. 

Davout crossed the Berezina at Berezino on July 15th 
and advanced on Mohilev, leaving Pajol with three 
regiments of cavalry and one of infantry to guard com- 
munications. On the 19th he was near Mohilev with 
Compans, Desaix and Valence. The place was defended 
only by four skeleton battalions, and was easily carried 
by Desaix on the 20th. Eighteen officers and 200 men 
were taken ; with 120,000 rations of biscuit and flour, 
some thousands of muskets, and several thousand pounds 
of gunpowder. 

Pajol on the 19th reported that Bobruisk was full of 
Russian troops. Davout therefore inferred that he 
would soon be attacked, and made preparations accord- 
ingly. He called up Claparede from the northward, 
where he was supporting Grouchy, and sent for his 
reserve artillery, which was still in rear. He had already 
sent to Poniatowski and Tharreau to hasten their march. 
He was by no means at his ease, since he had, as he says, 
only 16,000 men (an underestimate) and expected to be 
attacked by 50,000. He looked about for a position in 
which he could receive battle against superior numbers, 
and found one at Saltanovka, about 8 miles on the 
Bobruisk road. 

Bagration had received orders to advance on the Duna 
by way of Orsha, and on the 19th he started Raievski 


with the 7th Corps, Platov, Dorokhov and the bulk of 
Sievers' cavalry, for Mohilev. Borozdin, with the 
divisions of Karl of Mecklenburg and Neverovski, followed 
on the 20th, while Voronzov brought up the rear with his 
division of combined grenadier companies, the 5th 
Chasseurs from Paskievich's division and the Kharkov 
Dragoons. The garrison of Bobruisk, under General 
Ignatiev, consisted now of about 6000 men. The artillery 
armament was fairly powerful, but the fortifications 
were by no means very formidable. General Zapolski, 
commanding the reserve troops at Mozyr, was ordered 
to hold firm there so as to cover Tormazov's line of 
communications with Kiev. 

Bagration himself was furious at the necessity for 
retreating, and his letters are couched in terms of angry 
disgust at the inaction of the main army. " You have 
100,000 men," he says in one place. " Well, fight ! " 
And elsewhere, " Why don't we fight ? We are worse 
than the Prussians and Austrians." His troops were 
weakened by nineteen days of marching in rain, heat and 
over vile tracks. Had there only been a little fighting 
Bagration would have been less exasperated. He says 
in one letter that he had galloped forty versts on the 
chance of seeing an engagement — an admission which 
throws a somewhat amusing light upon his impetuous 

On the 2 1st Bagration's leading troops reached Staroi 
Bykhov, some 25 miles south of Mohilev, and on the 
same day the advanced Cossacks, under Sissoiev, met 
the remains of the Mohilev garrison pursued by the 3rd 
Chasseurs-a-cheval, the only light cavalry regiment 
which Davout had retained. Unexpectedly assailed, 
the Chasseurs were broken and pursued to within a few 
miles of Mohilev, losing over 200 prisoners alone, and only 
rallying under cover of the 85th Regiment, which moved 
out to their relief. 

Davout, having ascertained that behind the Cossacks 


were at least two Russian infantry divisions, collected on 
the 22nd his whole disposable force in his chosen position 
at Saltanovka. His left rested on the marshy bank of 
the Dnieper and was unassailable. His front was covered 
by a stream flowing in a difficult ravine, spanned at 
Saltanovka, some 1200 yards from the Dnieper, by a 
wooden bridge. About a mile farther up stood the hamlet 
and water-mill of Fatova, where a second rivulet, flowing 
parallel to the Dnieper, joins the first. On this, a mile from 
Fatova, lay the village of Selets. About Saltanovka there 
were thick woods, especially on the north bank of the 
stream ; farther west the ground was more open, but 
broken and difficult. Generally speaking, the position 
was extremely strong ; only on the right was it at all 
assailable. Desaix's division guarded it, the 85th Regi- 
ment, under General Friederichs, on the left, the 108th 
on the right. The bridge was barricaded ; the villages were 
prepared for defence. One of Compans' regiments sup- 
ported Desaix near Selets ; the other two were held back 
to meet a turning movement, and only brought up later. 
Valence's Cuirassiers and the remains of the 3rd Chasseurs 
were in reserve near Selets. The whole force counted 
some 20,000 men with 56 guns. Claparede and the 
artillery reserve could not arrive before the 23rd. 

On the 22nd the head of Bagration's army was at 
Dashkova, 5 miles south of Saltanovka. Bagration 
ordered Raievski with the 7th Corps and Sievers' cavalry 
to attack next day. His reason seems to be expressed 
in his letter to Raievski on the 22nd. He tells him that 
he has only 6000 men in his front, according to his own 
intelligence ; he is therefore to attack with God's help 
and enter Mohilev on the heels of the enemy. Bagration's 
reasoning clearly is that, Mohilev being only held by a 
detachment, Raievski may easily clear the way, and the 
army get through towards Orsha before the arrival of 
the French main body. There is no indication that he 
intended to turn Davout's right with Borozdin and 


Mohi lev 

sT-f^S 3 

9 9 Q Q * 
0900,7" cG 

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i Vet-sis 

1 verst = § mile. Russian Troops shown black, French shaded. 

Fought by Marshal Davout to check Bagration's advance on Mohilev. 


Neverovski while Raievski was attacking in front : they 
could not reach Dashkova until late on the 23rd. 

Raievski advanced from Dashkova at 6 a.m. on the 
23rd. He had with him about 17,000 men with 84 or 
96 guns. His cavalry he left in reserve at Novo Sielki, 
3 miles from Dashkova. He ordered Paskievich's 
division to endeavour to turn the French right, promising 
that as soon as the attack made headway he would hurl 
Kolubakin's division at Saltanovka. 

Paskievich, driving in the French skirmishers, fought 
his way across the rivulet, and, bringing up a battery to 
cover his advance, pushed on against the 108th Regiment 
beyond it. Raievski, marking the advancing roll of 
Paskievich's fire, believed that the time had come, and 
sent forward Kolubakin's division. The Russians flung 
themselves at the bridge, drove off a battalion of the 
85th which endeavoured to take them in flank, and 
pressed doggedly on under a murderous fire which swept 
them away by platoons. Unable to advance, with the 
stolid courage of their race they refused to fall back, 
and stood facing the French volleys until Raievski with- 
drew them. 

Paskievich's leading troops, attacking Fatova, were 
charged and repulsed across the stream by two battalions 
of the 108th under Colonel Achard. Achard, in his turn, 
hotly pursuing, was driven back to his own side ; and 
Paskievich, again advancing, carried Fatova, and pene- 
trated almost to the outskirts of Selets ; but his offensive 
power had exhausted itself, and before the heavy fire of 
his well-posted and well-protected opponents he could 
advance no farther. Meanwhile Raievski, determined 
not to abandon his lieutenant, called up Kolubakin's 
reserves, and made another desperate attempt upon the 
bridge, himself and General Vassilchikov leading on 
foot, with reckless bravery. All was in vain ; the 
splendid infantry went forward only to die, and as the 
last attack reeled back from Friederichs' front, an 


aide-de-camp arrived to report Paskievich's failure. It 
was now past four o'clock, and Davout, feeling safe on 
his right, ordered forward Compans with the 61st and 
inth Regiments and began a general advance. Prisoners 
told Raievski that Davout had about Mohilev 3 infantry 
and 2 cavalry divisions, and, believing that he was op- 
posed by overwhelming forces, he gave orders to retreat. 
Compans followed as far as Novo Sielki, but as the road 
was practically a defile between woods he could do nothing 
to seriously harass the Russian retreat, and Davout's 
handful of light cavalry was of course useless. Claparede 
and the heavy artillery reached Mohilev during the 
closing stages of the battle. Raievski at Dashkova 
was met by Bagration, and the latter, judging that the 
way was barred by the bulk of Davout's corps, decided 
to pass the Dnieper and retreat on Smolensk. 

Raievski gave his loss as 2504 killed, wounded and 
missing. That of the French was naturally, under the 
conditions of the fighting, much less. Davout stated it 
at less than 900. General Desaix was slightly wounded. 
Davout was on worse terms with him than ever, and 
pointedly ignored him in his reports. 

Bagration wrote to Barclay that he had failed to 
break through at Mohilev, and so would make for 
Smolensk. On the 24th Platov and Dorokhov — except 
one fatigued infantry regiment — forded the Dnieper at 
Verkalobovo, and pushed on to join Barclay. Raievski, 
supported by Voronzov, held firm at Dashkova. Borozdin 
went back to Staroi Bykhov, while the pontooneers 
were sent on to bridge the Dnieper at Novi Bykhov, 
14 miles farther south. On the 25th Borozdin marched 
for the selected place of passage, and Raievski followed 
to Staroi Bykhov, unpursued by Davout, who could not 
meddle with Sievers' and Vassilchikov's squadrons. The 
Second Army crossed the Dnieper on the 26th and 27th, 
and marched rapidly upon Mstislavl. On the same day 
Platov was in touch with Barclay, having passed the 


Dnieper at Dubrovna on the 27th. Davout had re- 
mained practically inactive. He has been blamed for his 
inertness ; but it must be remembered that he was 
inferior in numbers to Bagration. He had in hand only 
some 25,000 men, and his nearest reinforcement was the 
5th Corps, which, harassed by fatigue, disease and lack 
of supplies, only reached the Berezina on the 24th. On 
the 25th Bordesoulle reported that Bagration was 
bridging the Dnieper, and on the same day Latour- 
Maubourg sent a detailed and fairly accurate statement 
of Bagration's strength, which probably made Davout 
more than ever inclined to caution. On the 27th Ponia- 
towski's leading brigade was at last within reach, but 
on the same day Bordesoulle reported that Bagration was 
across the Dnieper. Whatever Davout might have 
wished to attempt it was now too late. On the 29th 
Napoleon sent orders for him to canton his three corps 
along the Dnieper. 

As has been seen, the First Russian Army had con- 
centrated at the camp of Drissa, but it had scarcely 
arrived when proposals for its abandonment were made. 

The Russian army can scarcely be said to have had a 
commander at this moment. Clausewitz gives a graphic 
account of the disorder that prevailed. The Emperor 
was of course nominally the supreme head, and he was 
more or less at the mercy of his personal entourage. He 
himself believed in Phull, but everyone else distrusted 
the Prussian theorist — certainly not without good reason. 
The Tzar's relations often exercised undue influence 
over him, and were distrusted and disliked by the 
courtiers and soldiers ; the courtiers were at odds with 
the military men ; finally, the native Russian officers 
were jealous of the foreigners. Barclay himself was 
included among the objects of their dislike, and Colonel 
von Wollzogen, one of his German aides, was regarded 
with poisonous hatred, merely because his manners were 
unpleasing ! Projects of strategy were almost as numerous 


as advisers. Count Lieven, late ambassador at Berlin, 
had there seen much of Scharnhorst, who considered that 
no attempt should be made to fight before reaching 
Smolensk. Barclay protested repeatedly against re- 
maining at Drissa, and he was supported by the Tzar's 
relative, Alexander of Wiirttemberg. Paulucci, the 
chief -of-staff, declared furiously that the man who had 
selected such a position could only be either a fool or a 
traitor, and resigned. 

The camp of Drissa lay in a bend of the Duna between 
Drissa and Bridzievo. Its land front was about 6500 
yards in length, that on the river about 8000. The land 
front had ten redoubts, connected by batteries. In front 
of redoubts 6, 7, 8 and 9 was an abattis 2000 yards long 
and 120 broad ; but before the left wing a marshy wood 
gave excellent cover to an attacking enemy. Two more 
redoubts strengthened the first line of defence. The 
second was formed of five closed works, and another 
formed a kind of citadel behind it. Communication was 
maintained with the right bank by four bridges, which 
had only just been constructed and were incompletely 
protected with outworks. The subsidiary means of 
defence — pitfalls, palisades, entanglements and abattis 
— were also very incomplete. The stores were largely 
accumulated in wooden sheds in the village of Drissa, 
opposite the left wing and exposed to hostile fire. 

These tactical defects were, however, slight as com- 
pared with the strategic disadvantages. Lying far 
away from the Moscow road it could afford no defence 
against an enemy who chose to advance by that line, and 
it did not even cover that to St. Petersburg. The roads 
which led to it were mere country tracks, which ruined 
the convoys which had to use them. Moreover, by 
retiring on Drissa the First Army had actually retreated 
away from, instead of towards, Bagration, and if the two 
separated forces wished to effect a junction they could 
do so only by retiring far to the rear, or by perilous 


marches across the front of Napoleon's advancing 

Alexander, perhaps at Phull's instigation, repri- 
manded Bagration for retreating, as if he could have 
done anything else. Finally, however, Phull was induced 
to give way, and it was decided, just in time, to evacuate 
Drissa. The 1st Corps was ordered to cover the St. Peters- 
burg road, and on July 14th the rest of the army began 
its march for Vitebsk. 

The French advanced troops were already almost on 
the Diina. On the 13th Oudinot with Legrand's division 
made a somewhat unnecessary demonstration against 
the bridge-head of Diinaburg. On the night of the 1 4-1 5th 
Wittgenstein bridged the Diina and sent across a detach- 
ment under Kulnev, which surprised St. Genies' cavalry 
brigade, and captured the brigadier and over 100 men. 
Meanwhile the First Army pursued its march, covered 
by the river, and reached Polotsk on the 18th. 

On July 1 6th Napoleon left Vilna and on the 18th 
arrived at Glubokoie. Next day, learning that Drissa 
was abandoned, he turned Eugene towards Vitebsk, 
placed the cavalry of the 6th Corps under his orders, and 
called Grouchy also to join him. The 6th Corps was 
marching for Glubokoie, already in a sad condition owing 
to heat, bad roads and deficiency of bread. It should 
have received 70,000 bread rations at Vilna, but so 
completely had the commissariat broken down that only 
27,000 could be furnished. Diarrhoea and dysentery had 
broken out ; and the unhappy Bavarians fell out in 
thousands, mostly to die untended by the wayside. 

Murat's three infantry divisions, under the general 
command of Comte Lobau, were extended from Perebrod, 
20 miles west of Drissa, towards the south-east. Oudinot 
was approaching on the left. Ney and Nansouty were 
near Desna, some 20 miles below Drissa. 

The conditions among the leading troops were less 
pitiable than with the 6th Corps, but still very bad. 


Supplies were scanty. Bread was scarce ; the troops 
were lucky if they received even flour. Owing to the 
breakdown of the transport clothing and equipment — 
especially footgear — were becoming deficient. The roads 
were bad, the heat was great and there was much sick- 
ness. Lack of supplies led to a general slackening of the 
bonds of discipline. The country was ravaged by maraud- 
ing stragglers, who committed every kind of outrage. 
All efforts to check the evil failed completely. 

On the 18th Barclay was at Polotsk. He rightly 
inferred that Napoleon would direct his attacks against 
the Russian left, and informed Alexander that he must 
continue his retreat on Vitebsk. Fresh orders were given 
to Wittgenstein ; and the reserve troops at Dunaburg 
and elsewhere were placed under his command. 

At Polotsk the Tzar left the army. It was a wise step, 
for he was useless at the front, while at the seat of 
government his presence would be invaluable. Paulucci 
accompanied him, and was replaced by Major-General 
Yermolov, while Colonel Toll became Quartermaster- 
General. On bidding farewell Alexander bade Barclay 
not to endanger his army, for it was the only one that 
Russia possessed. This injunction undoubtedly made a 
strong impression upon Barclay, and is the best explana- 
tion of his irresolution some weeks later. 

On July 20th Napoleon's plan was definitely formed. 
He would turn Barclay's left by throwing forward the 
Guard and the 4th and 6th Corps to Bechenkoviczi on 
the road to Vitebsk, while Murat and Ney contained the 
Russians in front, and Oudinot occupied Drissa and 
threatened their right. 

Barclay, however, was already moving. On the 19th 
Uvarov's cavalry corps started from Polotsk, and by the 
23rd the entire army was collected round Vitebsk. There 
Barclay heard that Bagration had reached Mohilev, and 
wrote begging him to hasten his march on Orsha. He 
sent Major-General Tuchkov IV with his infantry brigade, 


3 cavalry regiments and 1 of Cossacks, towards Babino- 
vichi on the Orsha road, and Lieutenant-General Count 
Ostermann-Tolstoi, who had succeeded Shuvalov (retired 
through illness) with the 4th Corps, a brigade of Dragoons, 
and the Hussars of the Guard and of Sumi, towards 
Ostrovno on the way to Bechenkoviczi. The rest of the 
Russian army remained at Vitebsk to rest and re- 

The advance-guard of the French 4th Corps was 
already at Bechenkoviczi. Oudinot had two divisions 
at Polotsk and the third at Drissa. Lobau was to Eugene's 
left rear, with Ney some 20 miles farther back : Murat, 
with Nansouty's corps, was near Bechenkoviczi ; Mont- 
brun was moving up the right bank of the Diina towards 
Vitebsk ; Napoleon with the Guard was at Kamen, 
about 21 miles from Bechenkoviczi. The unhappy 6th 
Corps was toiling along the Gluboko'ie-Polotsk road. 

At 6 a.m. on the 25th Murat's and Ostermann's out- 
posts collided near Ostrovno. Here the road, coming 
from Vitebsk between woods, made a sharp turn to the 
right, and another equally abrupt to the left some way 
farther on. The leading Russian regiment, the Guard 
Hussars, charged headlong and, sabring the French 
pickets, blundered up against Pire's brigade in the rear. 
It was driven back with heavy loss upon a horse battery 
which was following, and in the confusion the French 
captured six guns. Ostermann, who was some way 
behind, sent forward the Sumi Hussars to check the 
French advance. He then formed for battle, with 
Choglokov's division deployed across the road and 
Bakhmetiev's in columns behind, and in this order the 
4th Corps marched forward to Ostrovno, and took 
position between the woods. 

Ostermann had in all 18 battalions and 20 squadrons 
— some 13,000 men and perhaps 60 guns. The French 
troops which could take part in the action included 
Bruyere's and St. Germain's cavalry divisions and 


Delzons' infantry division — 10,000 bayonets, 6000 lances 
and sabres, with about 40 guns. 

Ostermann proved a very poor tactician. Against 
infantry and artillery in position the French cavalry 
could do nothing, and until the head of Delzons' division, 
the two battalions of the 8th L£ger, arrived the action 
was confined to some spectacular but useless cavalry 
skirmishing. When the 8th L£ger came up it was 
attacked by three Russian battalions, which moved 
forward against it, but they were charged in flank by 
two cavalry regiments and driven back. They should 
not have been exposed alone in front of the position. 
Ostermann then attacked both flanks of the French at 
once, but with only four battalions, which were charged 
by the cavalry and broken. Delzons' division was now 
coming into action, and Ostermann withdrew to a position 
two miles farther back. The action was certainly not to 
his credit. 

Barclay on this day had sent Lieutenant-General 
Konovnitzin with his division of the 3rd Corps (less 
Tuchkov IV's brigade) and the 1st Cavalry Corps to 
support his advanced guard. Early on the 26th Oster- 
mann retired behind Konovnitzin, who took up a defensive 
position behind a ravine, with a wood on his left. At 10 
a.m. Murat arrived in his front with Delzons and Nan- 
souty. Huard's brigade (two regiments) was directed 
against the Russian right, Roussel's upon the left ; the 
106th Regiment and Nansouty's cavalry, except one 
brigade which covered the left, remained in reserve. 

Roussel's troops found much difficulty in penetrating 
the wood on the Russian left and, assailed by Konov- 
nitzin's reserve, were driven out and over the ravine. 
The Russians, however, pursuing heedlessly, were re- 
pulsed by a charge of one of Nansouty's brigades ; and 
Roussel, rallying his troops, penetrated into the wood. 
Huard, meanwhile, was steadily pushing forward on the 
Russian right, and,being presently supportedby the 106th, 


gained ground rapidly. Konovnitzin drew off in good 
order and retreated on Vitebsk, little harassed by the 
way, the broken and wooded nature of the country 
greatly impeding the pursuit. Napoleon, wishing to 
deliver a general action at Vitebsk, directed Eugene not 
to press too closely, lest Barclay should take alarm and 
retreat without fighting. 

On the 27th Napoleon had near Ostrovno the Guard 
(less Claparede and Colbert), Lobau's three divisions, 
the 3rd and 4th Corps, and Nansouty's and Montbrun's 
cavalry, about 120,000 men in all. The 2nd Corps was 
at Drissa and Polotsk, in contact with Wittgenstein, and 
the 6th at Uchach, 60 miles in rear of Ostrovno. During 
the night Konovnitzin had been joined by the corps 
commander, Tuchkov I, with Strogonov's division ; and 
the united force now retired on Vitebsk. 

Barclay had made up his mind to fight at Vitebsk. 
His reasons, as detailed to the Tzar, were that Napoleon 
had in hand only the Guard, the 3rd and 4th Corps, and 
Murat's cavalry, while the steadiness of the Russian 
troops in the recent fighting gave good hopes of victory ; 
and that he felt it his duty to draw Napoleon's attention 
upon him and give Bagration time wherein to come up. 
As regards the first reason he did not know that Napoleon 
had with him three divisions of Davout's corps, and was 
therefore 30,000 stronger than his estimate. Respecting 
the second, if Bagration really were making the terribly 
dangerous march from Mohilev by Orsha and Babinovichi, 
Barclay was indeed bound to fight for the sake of his 
comrade. That the plan of attempting a junction by 
way of Orsha was hazardous is clear, but it scarcely 
affects Barclay's reasoning. On the assumption that 
Bagration was coming by the Orsha road, and that 
Napoleon was only 90,000 strong, his determination was 
not unwise. 

The Russian army was drawn up on the 27th behind 
the Luchizza, a stream flowing into the Diina just below 


Vitebsk. Clausewitz criticises the position severely ; but 
he seems rather prone to ignore the fact that good 
tactical positions are not plentiful in Russia — as he him- 
self elsewhere admits. Strategically it had the grave 
defect of lying almost parallel to the Orsha road by 
which communications with Bagration were expected 
to be established. But it is at any rate certain that it 
would, like the faulty position of Eylau, have been 
defended with desperate courage. An advance-guard of 
8 battalions, 2 Cossack regiments and all the regular 
light cavalry was stationed on the left bank of the 
Luchizza, under General Pahlen, the commander of the 
3rd Cavalry Corps. 

Though the Russian army had suffered less than its 
opponents during the long marches from the Niemen to 
Vitebsk it had not escaped considerable losses by disease 
and fatigue. The reinforcements along the Diina had 
mostly been assigned to Wittgenstein. Platov and 
Dorokhov were also absent. Barclay's strength at Vitebsk 
appears to have been about 82,000 men, of whom 14,000 
were cavalry — mostly regulars — and over 400 excellently 
horsed guns. 

On the 27th the French advance-guard moved upon 
Vitebsk, and there was some brisk fighting between 
Pahlen's detachment and Broussier's and Bruyere's 
divisions. The Cossacks of the Russian Guard over- 
threw the 1 6th Chasseurs-a-cheval, who endeavoured to 
stop them with carbine fire, and made a mad dash right 
among Broussier's infantry squares, while some Voltigeurs 
of the 9th French Regiment, pushed across the Luchizza, 
defended themselves brilliantly against a cloud of 
Russian horsemen. Pahlen steadily retired as the French 
advanced, and Napoleon did not wish to press, since his 
concentration would not be complete until the evening. 
Ney was still on the march from Ostrovno, and Mont- 
brun on the other bank of the Diina opposite Vitebsk. 
In the afternoon Barclay received Bagration's despatch 


announcing that he was marching for Smolensk. Barclay 
at once issued orders for a retreat. In the night the whole 
army, leaving its camp-fires burning, evacuated its 
position and moved silently away in three columns, 
General Dokhturov, with the 5th and 6th Corps, marching 
directly on Smolensk by way of Rudnia, the rest of the 
army taking the more circuitous routes by Surazh and 
Poriechie. Dokhturov's march was covered by a rear- 
guard, under Major-General Shevich, that of the other 
two columns by Pahlen with 14 battalions and 32 
squadrons. The withdrawal from the position was a 
triumph of good management and discipline. Scarce a 
single straggler was left behind, and the retiring columns 
were well on their way before the fact of their departure 
was ascertained. The diverging lines of retreat confused 
the French cavalry, and not until the 30th was Murat 
definitely able to report that Barclay had retreated on 
Smolensk. Except for some not very serious skirmishing 
between the advanced guards of the French and the rear- 
guards of the Russians there was no fighting. The 
Russians moved at a pace which set pursuit at defiance. 
On July 31st Dokhturov was outside Smolensk, having 
marched So miles in four days. On August 1st Barclay 
arrived from Poriechie. Bagration, hurrying from Novi 
Bykhov by Propoi'sk and Mstistavl, came up two days 
later. His troops had covered 150 miles through sands, 
bogs and forests in eight days. The pedestrian feats of 
the Russians are remarkable. Since June 28 the Second 
Army had marched over 540 miles, giving an average of 
15 miles a day. As there were some days of rest or battle 
the actual pace was much more rapid. 

The Russian losses in the fighting round Vitebsk may 
be estimated at about 4000, with 6 (or 8) guns. Those of 
the French may have been a little less. 

Napoleon entered Vitebsk on the 28th. He must have 
been bitterly disappointed at the negative result of his 
operations. Once more the Russians had quietly with- 


drawn out of reach at the very moment of contact. The 
French losses through fatigue and disease had been 
relatively enormous, and the manoeuvre of Vitebsk had 
failed as completely as the manoeuvre at Vilna. In a 
sense the failure was even worse, for the Russians had 
emerged from the situation with a great strategic success 
to their credit. In spite of blunders and miscalculation, 
despite contradictory orders and lack of any unity of 
command, Barclay and Bagration had achieved what had 
been the primary object of their weary marches and 
manoeuvres to the rear, and had effected their union. 


WITH the arrival of Napoleon's main army on 
the Diina and Dnieper the first stage of 
the campaign came to an end. To all 
appearance the invaders had gained immense advantages. 
Nearly the whole of the ancient Duchy of Lithuania, 
together with most of Kurland, had passed into Napoleon's 
hands almost without a blow having been struck in their 
defence. A number of considerable towns had been 
occupied, and a great quantity of Russian stores captured. 
The Russian armies, which six weeks earlier had been 
ranged along the line of the Bug and the Niemen, had 
now retreated behind that formed by the Diina and the 
Dnieper, and the passage of both these rivers could be 
effected by the French at their convenience. The Russian 
troops, apart from the discouragement caused by con- 
stant retreating, had suffered considerable material loss. 
When the withdrawal from the frontier began the 
armies of Barclay and Bagration had numbered together 
some 174,000 men. On the Diina the First Army had 
been joined by about 9000 reserves, and at Smolensk 
by 17 depot battalions and 4 batteries of artillery — 
probably 6000 more. Bagration had incorporated in his 
army the garrison of Mohilev and six reserve battalions 
from Bobruisk — say 3000. These figures, added together, 
give a total of 192,000. 

On August 6th the Russian forces were as follows : — 
The First and Second Armies presented a total of 



121,000 men ; besides a detachment of 1 Dragoon and 
3 Cossack regiments detached towards Poriechie. Three 
regiments of Cossacks had been detached to Riga and 
elsewhere. Two of Raievski's infantry regiments, which 
had been the worst sufferers at Saltanovka, had been sent 
into the interior to recruit. The deduction under these 
headings may be fairly estimated at 4500 men. Witt- 
genstein's corps and the reserves from Drissa and 
Diinaburg were on July 12th over 28,500 strong. The 
total effective of the Russian First and Second Armies 
early in August was therefore 154,000, showing a 
deficiency since June of 38,000 men. The fighting 
round Mohilev and Vitebsk had scarcely cost more than 
6000 or 7000 men, and 5000 is a high estimate for losses 
in the rear-guard actions. The diminution from other 
causes was therefore 27,000. It is to be accounted for 
by sickness, by straggling and fatigue due to the long 
and painful marches, but also in large measure to desertion 
among the Lithuanian troops. These half-hearted men 
were probably no great loss, nor can it be said that the 
diminution was, on the whole, excessive ; still it was 
serious. Over and above the abandoned magazines a 
portion of the material had been lost. Only eight guns 
had been captured in action, but some thirty more had 
been abandoned during the long marches through sands, 
swamps and forests ; it says volumes for the Russian 
artillery that the number was not greater. 

If, however, the Russian losses had been serious, those 
of the French had been more so. The causes which 
diminished the strength of the Russians operated also 
against the invaders, and apparently the latter, for the 
most part used to a higher standard of living, were less 
able to endure hardships. Fatigue and heat might have 
been endured without any very serious results, but 
owing to the breakdown of the transport, the supplies 
of bread and biscuit could never keep up with the troops ; 
even flour was rarely to be had. Meat was, as a rule, not 


lacking, but it was often of bad quality, the cattle being 
overdriven and frequently themselves ill-fed. A diet of 
poor meat, unseasoned, and unaccompanied by bread or 
vegetables, is not suitable for men who have to endure 
hard labour and fatigue under the rays of a Russian mid- 
summer sun. Such bread and biscuit as were procurable 
were bad, and the ill-ground rye had serious effects upon 
the stomachs of men accustomed to well-prepared wheaten 
flour. Every effort was made to bring up adequate 
supplies, but the ill-fed and overworked draft beasts were 
utterly unable to cope with the transport, and died in 
great numbers. The men, foraging for themselves, were 
rarely able to obtain more than small quantities of grain, 
and as there were no portable mills in the equipment of 
the troops it had to be consumed boiled. The water 
available in Lithuania was scanty in quantity and often 
bad ; and in the general disorganisation of the commis- 
sariat brandy, which formed part of the usual ration, 
and might, at any rate, have done something towards 
rendering the water less unwholesome, was rarely served 
out. The result was a frightful amount of sickness — 
diarrhoea, dysentery and typhus — and in a wretchedly 
poor and sparsely populated region little could be done 
to reduce it. The sick were left behind in temporary 
hospital camps; where they died by thousands in the 
midst of filth, starvation and general destitution. Of 
those who went into these dens of misery it was calcu- 
lated that not one in ten ever emerged alive. 

The fighting line was seriously weakened by the im- 
mense number of sick. It was also reduced by the 
necessity of making large detachments to bring up the 
belated supply trains and to forage for bread, and yet 
further depleted by straggling, partly for purposes of 
foraging, partly owing to fatigue, and in some measure 
to indiscipline. This straggling had always been one of 
the bad features of the Napoleonic army, and the marches 
always appear, except when in face of the enemy, to 


have been conducted with great irregularity. A German 
eyewitness was amazed to see the regiments of Davout's 
corps, the best disciplined of the army, making a short 
march in the most disorderly array. 

There is, of course, something to be said for this 
permission to the men to take their ease when there was 
no necessity for precise formation and watchfulness ; 
and certainly nothing is ever gained by harassing and 
overworking soldiers distinguished for cheerful readiness 
— as Frenchmen have always been. But it is difficult 
to avoid the conclusion that the irregularity went beneath 
the surface. With the gaiety and readiness of the French 
nature is intermixed a decided strain of impatience under 
restraint which easily degenerates into lawlessness. The 
straggling which, in earlier days, had perhaps been 
necessary for the ill-compacted Revolutionary armies, 
had now become a habit, and soon developed into a 
monstrous abuse, which ultimately, as much as anything, 
proved the ruin of the army. The writer is far from 
wishing to defend a hard and inelastic discipline which 
crushes personal initiative. But he is strongly of opinion 
that had the French march discipline been better at the 
outset, the army would not have broken up as it did 
during the retreat. Upon this subject more will be said 
in its proper place. 

Finally, it must be observed that the proper means of 
checking the evils which afflicted the contending armies 
were very little understood. Not only was there a 
deficiency of trained personnel, but the medical art was, 
as compared with what it is to-day, in a very undeveloped 
condition. It cannot be said that Napoleon did not 
endeavour to provide his troops with medical and surgical 
assistance, but it was never adequate, either in quantity 
or quality. The officers were rarely qualified to make 
good the deficiencies of the sanitary services. Among 
the corps commanders there were certainly some who 
thoroughly understood the details of administration. 


Davout was undoubtedly the best of them ; but Ney 
was also a careful and conscientious administrator. As 
early as August he is found issuing orders for the pre- 
paration of winter clothing. Among the divisional 
leaders, also, there were some who thoroughly understood 
how to look after their men — De Fezensac instances 
Ledru des Essarts as one of them. Still, the careful 
administrators were certainly in a minority, and their 
excellent intentions were often hampered by lack of 
scientific knowledge. 

Turning from the general examination of these evils 
to consideration of the intrinsic damage which they 
caused, it is to be noted that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 
6th and 8th Army Corps and the 4 corps of Reserve 
Cavalry totalled on June 24th about 315,000 men. The 
returns of August 3rd and 4th give an aggregate of less than 
213,000. There were, therefore, even on the showing of 
the official returns, 102,000 men in rear. Detachments 
account for about 20,000. There remain 82,000 ; and, 
since allowance must be made for drafts and absentees 
rejoined, it will probably be fair to estimate that the losses 
amounted to 100,000. The loss in battle cannot be 
estimated higher than 15,000 ; it follows that 85,000 
men had disappeared from the muster-rolls by reason of 
straggling and sickness — that is, nearly 30 per cent. Of 
course, they were not all permanently lost to the 
army, but a very large proportion were, owing to the 
terrible lack of provision for the temporarily disabled 

The mortality among the horses had been very large, 
mainly owing to lack of forage. The number dwindled 
day by day, and this circumstance was, in a sense, more 
fatal than loss of men. Every disabled horse meant 
further lessening of the means of transport. The cavalry 
regiments were unable to mount even their diminished 
effectives except by sweeping up horses from the country- 
side ; and these were rarely of much service. The guns 


of the reserve parks had to be left at Vilna, and even 
part of the artillery of several army corps. 

When Napoleon reached Vitebsk the number of men 
missing among the 450,000 who had crossed the frontier 
in June and July, may be conservatively calculated at 
120,000, and a very large proportion of them were 
either already dead or disabled from further service. 
Straggling and desertion were especially prevalent 
among the foreign regiments. Their administration 
was generally less efficient ; less care was taken of them 
by the French officials. They had naturally little affection 
for the cause in which they had been enlisted by their 
sovereigns, and their officers must have been exasperated 
at the disgraceful fashion in which Napoleon invariably 
endeavoured to saddle their troops with the sole blame 
for disorders. It is more than probable that disgust at 
this, no less than the way in which they had been sacrificed, 
was one of the motives which impelled so many German 
officers to turn against Napoleon in the following year. 

For every reason a halt was imperatively necessary, 
and Napoleon called it as soon as the escape of the First 
Russian Army was an accomplished fact. On the 29th he 
wrote to Davout, ordering him to canton his troops. The 
various corps took up quarters on a line extending from 
Surazh to beyond Mohilev, with the cavalry pushed out 
in front and on the flanks. Latour-Maubourg was about 
Rogachev-on-Dnieper, some 60 miles south of Mohilev, 
with a Polish infantry division in support. 

There was a little skirmishing between the advanced 
French cavalry and belated Russian detachments. On 
July 30th Murat's horsemen picked up about 100 prisoners 
and 40 abandoned vehicles, and captured a welcome 
supply of flour and forage. On the 31st Villata's Italian 
cavalry brigade surprised a Russian convoy at Velizh, 
escorted by 4 depot battalions. The 2nd Chasseurs under 
Colonel Banco charged, and captured 60 waggons and 
250 prisoners. The total Russian loss was estimated by 


Eugene at 700, and 600 sacks of flour and a herd of 
bullocks fell into the hands of the Italian troopers. But 
for these captures the French cavalry could hardly have 
advanced another step. The regiments were, with few 
exceptions, very weak, and the horses exhausted by 
fatigue and privation. Sebastiani — perhaps with some 
exaggeration, for he was ill and discouraged — declared 
that his division had only 2300 mounted men remaining, 
out of over 4000. Hardly one of the corps was really fit 
for service except perhaps the 1st. Ney had not yet 
received his reserve of artillery, which was toiling up 
from the rear. Not even in the 1st Corps were things 
altogether satisfactory. Davout was growling at the 
disorder in the regiments, threatening Desaix, whom he 
accused of abetting it, with arrest, and re-establishing 
discipline by stern methods, including the shooting of 
marauders caught in the act. 

During the last days of July Oudinot had fought 
several very bloody and inconclusive actions with Witt- 
genstein. The 2nd Corps had been forced back upon the 
Diina ; and on August 4th Napoleon ordered St. Cyr, who 
was near Bechenkoviczi, to march to its support, though 
the unhappy Bavarians had scarcely begun to refit and 
were still smitten with disease. St. Cyr complained 
bitterly, but he had to obey. 

By August 4th the Grand Army had settled down in 
cantonments. Head-quarters were at Vitebsk, where 
ovens were being built, and hospitals and magazines 
established. The 4th Corps was at Surazh, Velizh and 
Poriechie, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Corps about 
Rudnia, the 3rd Corps around Liozna, north-west of 
Rudnia, with the 24th Light Infantry supporting 
Sebastiani. The 1st Corps, not yet reunited, was spread 
from Vitebsk to Orsha, with the 8th Corps at the latter 
place, and the 5th between Sklov and Mohilev, whither 
Latour-Maubourg was also moving. 

The general results of the halt were very beneficial. 


The establishments of the regiments began to rise. It is 
true that the muster rolls for August 4th only show about 
197,000 men present out of a nominal 270,000, but 
stragglers were rallying each day ; and men and horses 
were at least reposing from fatigue. The supply depart- 
ment was not entirely satisfactory. Davout's troops 
were able to draw breadstuffs from the country along the 
Dnieper, and had, as has been seen, captured several 
Russian depots. The corps north of the Dnieper, how- 
ever, depended for bread mainly on what could be 
brought up by the overworked transport from Vilna and 
Minsk. Here, however, there was an improvement, since 
the halt allowed the trains to close up. If bread were 
not regularly served out the men at any rate obtained 
something, and the corps commanders were able to begin 
to accumulate a small reserve. 

Besides the increase caused by stragglers and con- 
valescents rejoining, reinforcements were arriving. The 
rear detachments of the Imperial Guard were beginning 
to come up, also the Hesse-Darmstadt Guards, under 
Prince Emil, of which one battalion joined at Vitebsk, 
while the other was marching from Vilna. Three newly 
formed battalions for the Vistula Legion were also on the 
way, and various regiments de marche (i.e. drafts, con- 
valescents, etc.). A Portuguese cavalry regiment had 
joined Davout, and the Grand Quarter-General, 4690 
strong, reached Vitebsk on the 7th. When hostilities 
recommenced the Grand Army was considerably the 
better for its rest. Davout's troops especially were in 
excellent order, and carried on the person bread, biscuit 
and flour for fifteen days. The Westphalians also were 
well supplied. North of the Dnieper matters were less 
satisfactory. Friant on rejoining Davout stated that he 
had always had to forage for breadstuffs, though he had 
plenty of meat. 

The administration of the hospitals was still very bad, 
even at Vitebsk ; and elsewhere no doubt it was much 


worse. Matters were not improved by the fact that 
Surgeon-General Larrey and General Mathieu Dumas, 
the chief of the military administration, were on bad 
terms with each other. 

Some changes were at this time made in the commands. 
Napoleon's old, but not very capable or energetic, friend, 
Junot, was appointed to the command of the 8th Corps. 
Marchand was given the Wurttemberg division of Ney's 
corps. It had been commanded at the outset by the 
Crown Prince Wilhelm, but, partly owing to disgust at 
the disorder, and the fashion in which he and his men 
were slandered to save the faces of the French, partly 
owing to illness, he had returned to Vilna, leaving the 
command to Lieutenant-General Scheler. Marchand 
declined to take the direct control out of the hands of 
the latter, and the two worked well together. Otherwise, 
being an old comrade and subordinate, Marchand was 
probably welcome to Ney. 

The Marquis d'Alorna, one of the few Portuguese 
officers who had preferred to serve Napoleon willingly, 
was appointed Military Governor of Mohilev. General 
Charpentier was placed in charge of Vitebsk, and Gomes 
Freyre, another Portuguese, of Glubokoie. The two 
brigades of Bavarian light cavalry belonging to the 6th 
Corps were combined into a division, under General 
Graf von Preising, and transferred to the 4th Corps, 
which now had 36 squadrons. 

Napoleon, of course, did not intend the halt to be more 
than temporary. At the outset of the campaign he had 
told Metternich that he did not intend to go farther than 
Smolensk in 1812, but, having established himself there, 
purposed to organise Lithuania and consolidate his rule 
in the former Polish provinces before attempting to 
conquer Russia Proper. This statement he repeated to 
others — notably to Jomini — and it can hardly be con- 
sidered as a mere blind. Up to the present he had failed 
to strike a heavy blow at the opposing Russian army 


The extent of country which he occupied was by no 
means an advantage, since it was too poor to support his 
huge forces, and merely lengthened his already long line 
of communications. But now, at last, a battle might 
reasonably be expected. Barclay and Bagration had 
united their forces, and it was scarcely within the bounds 
of probability that Smolensk, a home of the ancient 
Rurikovich line, long contended for with hated Poland, 
one of the sacred cities of Russia, would be abandoned 
without fighting. The halt had for its primary object the 
putting of the army into good condition preparatory to a 
fresh and energetic advance. 

As early as August 6th Napoleon told Eugene that an 
early renewal of hostilities was to be anticipated, and 
that he should probably advance on Smolensk by the 
left bank of the Dnieper. On the same day he was 
asking Davout for information as to which bank of the 
river was in his opinion the better for the advance. 
Davout's reply was that upon the whole he thought the 
left bank the more suitable, and apparently this decided 
the Emperor. The merits and demerits of the plan will 
be discussed later. Here it is only necessary to observe 
that it was preconceived, and not due to the influence of 
Russian operations. 

The two Russian armies were concentrated at Smolensk 
by August 4th. The city had practically no fortifications 
of value. Its massive brick walls were capable of resisting 
the attack of field guns, but there were several ill-closed 
breaches ; and the only guns in the place were antique 
pieces without carriages, kept mainly as relics. Smolensk 
was garrisoned by a column of 17 depot battalions, 8 
squadrons and 4 batteries of artillery — about 6000 or 
7000 men — which had been brought from Kaluga by 
General Winzingerode. The infantry was drafted into 
the two armies, ten battalions going to the 1st, seven to 
the 2nd, which had dwindled during its forced marches, 
and needed more strengthening in proportion. The 


artillery was also divided, but the squadrons were sent 
back to Kaluga to serve as a nucleus for fresh formations. 
Winzingerode was sent with the Kazan Dragoons from 
Uvarov's division and 3 regiments of Cossacks to observe 
the French left wing towards Surazh and Poriechie. 
There then remained a field army of 121,000 men, of 
whom over 18,000 were regular cavalry, with some 650 
pieces of artillery. 

Unhappily there was no unity of command. Barclay, 
as minister of war, was the hierarchical chief, but both 
Bagration and himself were Generals of Infantry, and 
the former was the senior in rank. Though a Georgian 
by birth he posed as an ultra Russian and received 
accordingly the willing, not to say eager and unscrupulous, 
support of the many officers who chose to regard Barclay 
as a half-hearted and even treacherous foreigner. His 
fighting record was a good one, and he might, with some 
justice, consider that he had the better title to the 
command-in-chief. Barclay also, with all his fine qualities, 
appears to have been deficient in tact. He does not 
appear to have fully realised the difficulties with which 
Bagration had had to contend, nor the very creditable 
attempts which he had made to effect a junction. After 
crossing the Dnieper Bagration appears to have considered 
that his best service would be performed in operating 
upon Napoleon's flank. Von Wollzogen, sent to urge 
him to hasten the union of the two armies, found him, 
according to his own account, by no means willing to do 
so, and informed Barclay. The latter thereupon wrote 
pressing him to hasten, in phrases which, though hardly 
beyond what the urgency of the case required, were 
perhaps unjust in their implications, and were certainly 
fiercely resented by Bagration. He reached Smolensk in 
a frame of mind which would find cause of offence in every 
trifle. Barclay, however, displayed unusual tact, for 
which his aide-de-camp Lowenstern gives himself the 
credit. When Bagration came to report himself the 


War-Minister met him in his antechamber in full uniform, 
and expressed his regret that he had been anticipated in 
calling upon him. The two chiefs then had a conversation, 
as the result of which Barclay apologised by letter for 
any injustice which he might have done his colleague. 
For the moment good relations were established, and 
Barclay wrote to the Tzar expressing his admiration of 
Bagration's character. But it is to be feared that Bagra- 
tion's friendly feelings were of no very long continuance, 
and a sense of injury still rankled in his mind. What 
was worse, many of the general officers were almost 
openly intriguing for the definite appointment of Bagra- 
tion to the supreme command. Yermolov actually wrote 
to the Tzar urging him to make it. The chief of the mal- 
contents was the Grand Duke Constantine, who, as the 
Tzar's brother and heir apparent, was the most important 
commander in the army. Constantine was a violent and 
irrational person, bearing, both in disposition and in the 
exceeding ugliness of his features, a strong resemblance 
to his ill-fated father. Barclay's position rapidly became 
almost an intolerable one. 

For the moment all went well. A council was called 
for the 6th of August, and to it came the two commanders- 
in-chief, the Grand Duke Constantine, whom Barclay 
dared not omit, Yermolov, Toll and St. Priest, Bagration's 
French chief-of-staff . The decision as to an offensive had 
been taken before the meeting, and only the details were 
to be settled. There was naturally considerable divergence 
of opinion. The extension of the French cantonments 
appeared to afford an excellent opportunity. It was 
determined to throw strong forces against Napoleon's 
extreme left, under Eugene, which might perhaps be 
completely destroyed. Bagration, however, wished to 
drive the attack home with the full force of both armies, 
and to this Barclay would not agree. He was very 
naturally uneasy as to what the mighty conqueror 
opposed to him might do to turn the tables. Smolensk, 


weak as it was, was the pivot of the Russian operations, 
and its loss would shatter the entire strategic plan. 
Barclay therefore proposed that Bagration should hold 
it while the First Army pushed forward against Vitebsk. 
To this Bagration demurred, and eventually it was 
decided to leave only a detachment to cover the city 
and to march upon Vitebsk with the combined armies, 
the Second holding rather back on the left to guard 
against a turning movement. 

Barclay, however, was very uneasy. The Tzar had 
bidden him preserve his army at all hazards, and, though 
he under-estimated Napoleon's strength, it was no light 
thing to advance to the attack of so terrible an adversary. 
Sir Robert Wilson, the British military commissioner, 
who reached head-quarters a few days later, says that 
Barclay was terrorised by his opponent's renown, but, 
seeing the situation and the tremendous consequences 
which would ensue on the destruction of Russia's single 
formidable army, it can hardly be wondered that he was 
resolute to take no risks. He informed the Council of 
Alexander's words, and expressed his firm determination 
not to move more than three marches from Smolensk. 

It is, of course, possible to argue that the plan, thus 
confined, was but a half-measure ; but it is equally 
possible that Barclay's caution saved the Russian army 
from destruction. He was certainly so far dominated by 
Napoleon that he expected to be turned, and prepared to 
throw back his right wing at the first alarm. On the 
other hand, it was certain that if Napoleon pursued his 
usual strategy he would endeavour to turn one or the 
other of the Russian flanks, and probability pointed to 
the right. 

General Neverovski was left to guard Smolensk. His 
division was improved in quality by making over two 
regiments to Paskievich, and receiving in return those of 
Poltava and Ladoga. The Kharkov Dragoon regiment 
and three regiments of Cossacks were also attached to him, 


and he was directed to move out along the left bank of 
the Dnieper. 

Having thus, as he hoped, provided for speedy intelli- 
gence, and for the security of Smolensk, if it were 
threatened, Barclay, on August 7th, set his forces in 
motion. Bagration moved along the right bank of the 
Dnieper to Katan, some 16 miles from Smolensk. The 
5th and 6th Corps and the 3rd Cavalry Corps advanced 
on Rudnia, and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Corps and the rest 
of the cavalry in the direction of Poriechie. A detach- 
ment of light infantry under Baron Rosen connected the 
First and Second Armies. Each column was preceded by 
an advance guard of infantry and cavalry, and in front 
of all were the Cossacks under the general command of 
Platov. The advancing army totalled about 113,000 

At the end of the first day's march, Barclay received 
intelligence from Winzingerode that Eugene and Nansouty 
were at or near Poriechie. This naturally suggested that 
Napoleon had obtained information, and was moving 
to turn the Russian right. Barclay accordingly halted, 
and faced to the north-east, requesting Bagration to 
advance to Prikaz Vidra, 16 miles north of Katan, to 
guard the left flank. Platov was still moving north- 
westward, and on the 8th he encountered Sebastiani's 
division near Inkovo, east of Rudnia. Sebastiani was 
supported by the 24th Leger and Beurmann's light 
cavalry brigade from Ney's corps. Beurmann, however, 
hardly showed the vigour which the occasion required, 
and only his Wurttemberg horse artillery battery took 
a decided share in the action, the brunt of which fell 
upon Sebastiani. The French division, which was less 
than 3000 strong, fought well, but was forced to fall back 
before superior numbers. A company of the 24th was 
captured by the Cossacks, and the loss probably totalled 
600 men, of whom 300 were prisoners. Murat was at 
head-quarters during the action, and by some the reverse 


is attributed to his absence. Undoubtedly he would 
have been better able to combine the operations of 
Sebastiani and Beurmann than was his chief-of-staff, 
Belliard, and would also have brought pressure to bear 
upon Ney. The latter, who was cantoned about Liozna, 
concentrated his troops, but made no move to Sebastiani's 
support, for which he was next day severely reprimanded 
by Napoleon. 

On the same day Nansouty's outposts near Velizh 
were attacked by those of Winzingerode. The intelligence 
all went to show that the Russians were advancing against 
the French left wing. On the 8th Napoleon received 
Davout's report upon the roads along the Dnieper ; and 
at 2 a.m. on the 9th he replied to say that he had decided 
to march upon Smolensk by the left bank, and ordered 
the Marshal to trace the itinerary. Murat hurried to the 
front to resume his command. Ney drew towards him 
the three divisions of the 1st Corps to meet a Russian 
advance. On the 8th the Guard had been paid, and 
had received brandy for ten days. Friant, who was to 
fall at the head of the Old Guard on the field of Waterloo, 
was nominated Colonel-General of the Foot Grenadiers 
in place of General Dorsenne, recently deceased. He was 
welcomed at a parade on the 9th by Napoleon himself — 
much to his pleasure. 

On the 10th General Eble was sent to Rasasna, 22 miles 
above Orsha, with orders to throw four bridges over the 
Dnieper. The weather was very bad, with heavy rain, 
which broke up the roads and impeded the march of the 
troops. Nansouty's and Montbrun's cavalry (except 
Sebastiani's division), Ney's corps, and the divisions of 
Morand, Friant and Gudin, were directed on Rasasna. 
Eugene would follow, forming the rear-guard of the 
movement, which was covered on its left by extensive 
forests. Davout's army was also ordered on Rasasna, 
except Dombrowski's division, which was to remain near 
Mohilev to observe Bobruisk. It is characteristic of 


Napoleon's methods that Ney knew nothing of the 
proposed movement until late on the 10 th. On the nth 
the Guard left Vitebsk. The weather was still bad, 
and it was probably owing to this that Ney was unable 
to evacuate all his sick, earning thereby another reprimand 
from Napoleon. 

General Charpentier was left to garrison Vitebsk with 
the new Guard regiment of " Flanqueurs- Chasseurs," 
Guyon's cavalry brigade of the 4th Corps, the 3rd battalion 
of the 1st Vistula Regiment, and a Hesse-Darmstadt 
battalion on the way from Vilna — 3800 men in all, a 
number which would be increased by the 16th to over 
7000 by various bataillons de marche. Sebastiani's 
division, temporarily commanded by General Pajol, was 
to remain in observation near Rudnia. Dombrowski's 
division was between Rogachev and Mohilev. A battalion 
of Westphalians garrisoned Orsha. Deducting these 
detachments, Napoleon had available for the advance on 
Smolensk over 200,000 men, exclusive of the head- 
quarter troops. By the 13th the whole huge mass was 
either at or within easy reach of Rasasna, and Nansouty, 
Montbrun and Ney crossed the river and took the lead. 

It is somewhat remarkable that there is no indication 
during this period of any attempt to ascertain the where- 
abouts of the Russians. Napoleon knew that they had 
not pushed their advance on Vitebsk, but he was ap- 
parently so confident that his move would meet all 
emergencies that he does not seem to have troubled 
himself about the 120,000 enemies who were somewhere 
to his left. 

Barclay, as has been seen, was facing towards Poriechie. 
About this time he received a direct order from Alexander 
to take the offensive. Bagration moved to Prikaz Vidra 
on the 9th ; and Barclay reported that the two armies 
could concentrate in a day if necessary, that in their 
position they covered Smolensk and the country between 
the Diina and Dnieper, and could easily be supplied from 


the magazines which had been prepared beforehand at 
Tor ope tz and other places. 

Bagration, however, was not satisfied. He was in a 
mood which would probably have induced him to quarrel 
with anything that Barclay did. He told Arakcheiev 
that the War-Minister's head-quarters were so choked 
with Germans that a Russian could not live there, and 
that constant marching and counter-marching would 
drive him mad. To Yermolov he wrote that he had 
neither hay, straw, bread nor a position, and that Barclay 
must either do something or else supersede him (Bagra- 
tion). He expected that Napoleon would amuse them 
by demonstrations about Rudnia, and move on Smolensk 
by their left. It is not clear whether this anticipation of 
the French Emperor's intentions was the result of careful 
reflection, or simply due to the natural tendency of 
every commander to imagine himself the especial object 
of the enemy's attentions. 

The result was that Barclay, in despair, gave Bagration 
a free hand. He empowered him to withdraw upon 
Smolensk if he judged it necessary, and in general to 
take his own measures for the protection of the Russian 
left flank. The unfortunate War-Minister was beset by 
open and secret foes, and this, added to the responsibility 
which weighed upon him, probably explains this extra- 
ordinary step, which practically amounted to an abdica- 
tion of the supreme command. 

On the 12th, accordingly, Bagration withdrew towards 
Smolensk. On the same day, however, Barclay received 
fresh information that the French were in force near 
Poriechie. It was absolutely baseless, but he could 
scarcely discredit it, more especially as he was obsessed 
by the idea of an attack from that quarter. He wrote to 
Bagration that he expected an attack on the 15th, and 
took up a position between the Kasplia lake and the 
village of Volokovaia, about 22 miles north-west of 
Smolensk. He called up Bagration to Katan and Nadva, 


about 8 miles farther north-west, in order to guard his 
own left. On the 13th the Second Army was retiring on 
Smolensk, and the 7th Corps had actually reached the 
place when Barclay's order of recall arrived. 

This seems almost to have disturbed Bagration's 
mental balance. He complained bitterly of the constant 
counter-marching, which was steadily exhausting and 
depleting the Second Army. For this there was good 
excuse, but little for the violent letters which he wrote 
to Yermolov, in which he describes Barclay as a traitor 
worthy of death. The latter had certainly carried his 
cautious policy too far, since another march in advance 
on the 9th or 10th would have shown that there were no 
large forces in his front, and he was certainly in a state 
of great irresolution. Still, seeing the character of his 
adversary, this was, at any rate, excusable, and one may 
fairly ask why the masses of Russian light cavalry had 
not better enlightened the situation. 

It must be said in defence of Bagration that however 
much he allowed his fiery temperament to master him, 
and though his letters to a dangerous intriguer like 
Yermolov were subversive of all military subordination, 
he did not himself set the example of disobedience. On 
the 14th he counter-marched the 8th Corps on Katan, 
pushing Sievers' and Vassilchikov's cavalry, with a 
supporting brigade of the 7th Corps, on towards Volo- 
kovaia. The bulk of the 7th Corps was at Smolensk, and 
the men needed rest, so that Raievski did not commence 
his march until 7 p.m. As he moved off, cannonading 
was heard in the direction of Krasnoi. Towards 10 o'clock 
an aide-de-camp arrived from Neverovski with the news 
that French troops were advancing by the south bank 
of the Dnieper. Bagration had also, by some means, 
received intelligence, for soon after came orders from 
him to halt. In the night, Raievski received a fresh order 
to return to support Neverovski. At daybreak on the 
15th the 7th Corps re-entered Smolensk. 


On the morning of the 14th the Grand Army began to 
advance from Rasasna. Murat led the way with 
Nansouty's, Montbrun's and Grouchy's corps and the 
light cavalry of the 1st and 3rd Corps ; and behind him 
came Ney's three infantry divisions. In rear of Ney came 
Davout's corps, and then the Guard. Eugene was cross- 
ing at Rasasna ; the 8th Corps was marching from 
Orsha on Davout's right, and the 5th farther out, covered 
towards the south by Latour-Maubourg. Between two 
and three in the afternoon the advance-guard reached 
Krasnoi, occupied by Neverovski's division. 

Various French writers have expressed astonishment 
at this small force having been left exposed, and appar- 
ently by accident on the south side of the Dnieper. All this 
is, of course, little better than nonsense, or, at best, adula- 
tion of Napoleon's genius, which was so great that it robbed 
his opponents of common sense ! The sending of the 27th 
Division along the left bank of the river was a perfectly 
rational measure of precaution. It was in observation, 
and not intended to abide the attack of a greatly superior 
force, though it was quite capable of dealing with a 
division or flying detachment. By whichever bank the 
Russian leaders chose to operate they could not leave 
the other unobserved, especially since the French held 
the crossings at Orsha and elsewhere. The mistake — 
presumably Bagration's — appears to have been in not 
stationing the infantry closer to Smolensk and sending 
only the cavalry to observe the Orsha road. 

Krasnoi is a small town about 30 miles from Smolensk. 
Neverovski's cavalry outposts were about Liady, a few 
miles west. They were driven out by Grouchy's corps, 
which formed Murat's left wing ; and Neverovski learned 
that overwhelming forces were marching upon him. 

He a* once made his dispositions for retreat. A little 
east of Krasnoi the Lossmina river flows to the Dniep °r 
through a gully over which the high-road passed by the 
usual wooden bridge. Neverovski ordered the 50th 

A. Rischgitz 


Commander of the French Cavalry 
From the painting by Gerard at Versailles 


Chasseurs with 2 guns to march with all speed to 
Korythnia, nearly half-way to Smolensk, to form a 
sustaining force in case of a grave defeat, and began to 
withdraw. When Murat and Ney arrived they found 
him with 9 battalions, his cavalry and 8 guns, behind the 
ravine, with 1 battalion and 2 guns in Krasnoi. 

The general order of the French advance is a little 
uncertain, but Grouchy, with Chastel's light horse and 
De la Houssaye's dragoons, appears to have been on the 
left, the light cavalry of the 1st and 3rd Corps with the 
24th Leger, personally led by Ney, in the centre ; Mont- 
brun's two Cuirassier divisions on the right, with Nan- 
souty in support. The 24th Leger attacked and carried 
Krasnoi about 3 p.m., capturing the two guns and driving 
the remains of the garrison over the ravine. The 9th 
Polish Cavalry followed them over the bridge, but, throw- 
ing themselves rashly upon the supporting infantry, were 
repulsed. The Kharkov dragoons pursued, but declined 
to charge in face of the masses behind, and Neverovski, 
seeing the French numbers, sent his cavalry off to the 
rear, and began to withdraw, with his ten battalions 
ranged in two dense columns. 

The hostile horsemen were now crowding over the 
Lossmina ravine. Murat, having got some squadrons 
together, flung himself at the Russian rear-guard, threw 
it into disorder and captured five or six guns more. 
Neverovski rallied the broken troops, and then, appar- 
ently doubting the steadiness of his young recruits, 
supported now by the fire of only two guns, united his 
force into a single great square. As the battalions were 
formed, in Continental fashion, six deep, and as the 
number of men was about 5000, each face was probably 
130 yards long. 

As the French and allied cavalry crossed the ravine 
each regiment hurried up to the front and singly and 
apparently haphazard charged the retiring square. To 
all appearance Murat exercised no general control, but 


acted like a mere regimental commander, riding furiously 
about, leading isolated charges which were futile 
against steady infantry. The artillery was mostly 
blocked at the Lossmina, and only three Wurttemberg 
guns succeeded in coming into action ; while Ney's 
infantry, which might have held the Russians until the 
guns could do their work, could not force its way up 
through the impeding hosts of cavalry. The country 
was much broken and cut up by small hollows and gullies ; 
while the road was generally bordered by trees. Over 
this country, eastward of Krasno'i, on the way to Koryth- 
nia, was moving the host of French, Polish and German 
horsemen, while in its midst the great square of the 27th 
Division lumbered solemnly along, with the attacks of 
the cavalry breaking upon it like waves upon a rock, 
firing and stabbing doggedly at everything that troubled 
it, and making its way steadily to Korythnia in spite 
of what its assailants could do. The firing of the Russian 
recruits appears to have often been wild, but their 
steadiness was exemplary. Even when the three Wurttem- 
berg guns at last worked their way up and opened fire 
there was no shattering them. A Wurttemberg regiment 
did succeed, at one moment, in breaking into the square, 
but was forced out again, and the 27th Division steadied 
its ranks and went on its dogged way. The charges 
grew more and more ineffective owing to the fatigue of 
men and horses ; and about 8 p.m. Neverovski arrived 
in safety at Korythnia. There he rallied his cavalry and 
rear-guard, and next day retreated on Smolensk. He 
had lost about 1500 men in all, of whom half were 
prisoners, with 8 guns. The French losses do not appear 
to have exceeded 800. 

The action was extremely creditable to the young 
Russian troops, though it is only fair to say that they 
owed much to Murat's mismanagement. Ney, in the 
midst of the action, went to the King and endeavoured 
to induce him to allow the infantry to pass to the front, 


but without avail. He was furious, and wrote a memo- 
randum to Napoleon begging him to have a regular 
advance-guard of infantry. Cavalry, as he pointed out, 
were powerless to prevent the retreat of infantry. 

Raievski reached Smolensk at dawn on the 15th. In 
the town was General Bennigsen, who was accompanying 
the army apparently in the hope of succeeding to the 
chief command. To him the anxious commander of the 
7th Corps went for advice, but Bennigsen was not the 
man to assist juniors in difficulties, much less to allow 
himself to become associated with what might be a great 
disaster. He put Raievski off with a few meaningless 
words, merely counselling him to save his artillery. 
Raievski, as he says, felt that when the fate of Russia 
hung in the balance it was no time to think of a few 
guns. He took up a position about 2 miles in advance 
of the town, and awaited Neverovski, who arrived at 
2 p.m. From him Raievski learned that probably the whole 
French army was advancing upon Smolensk, and hurried 
off a despatch to Barclay. At 5 p.m. he heard artillery 
fire at his outposts, and, hurrying to the front, saw the 
masses of Murat's cavalry coming up from Korythnia. 

Raievski did not falter. As he saw it his duty was 
plain. He and his men must die, if necessary, in defence 
of the city, for if it fell Napoleon could take Barclay and 
Bagration in rear, cutting their line of communication 
with Moscow and the south. He was supported by 
Paskievich, to whom, according to his biographer, the 
main credit of the resolution was due. This assertion 
may be taken for what it is worth, though there is no 
reason to doubt that Paskievich cordially supported his 
chief's resolution. 

Smolensk, in 1812, lay chiefly upon the southern bank 
of the river. It had formerly been a great frontier 
fortress, but since the advent of artillery its importance 
had dwindled, owing to the fact that it was more or less 
commanded by low heights. Its nucleus consisted of 


the ancient fortified city, whose massive brick walls 
formed an irregular pentagon of nearly four miles in 
circumference. These walls were generally about 30 feet 
high and from 15 to 20 in thickness. At the top were 
galleries open to the sky, too narrow to admit of guns 
being placed in position. At intervals were 32 towers, in 
which staircases gave access to the walls. It was only on 
the platforms of these towers that artillery could be 
placed, and they were in general less solidly constructed 
than the walls. Inside the walls were backed by ancient 
earthen ramparts. At the south-west angle was a small 
regular fort of earth, in so neglected a condition that its 
ramparts could easily be scaled by infantry. This so- 
called " Royal Citadel," dating from the days of the 
Polish occupation, constituted in reality perhaps the 
weakest point in the line of defence. Close to the southern 
or Malakova Gate a breach, made during the siege by 
Sigismund III of Poland in 1611, was covered by an 
earthen redan. The walls were encircled by a ditch and 
covered way, also in a neglected condition. Along the 
east side a considerable gully gave further protection, and 
at the west side was another but shallower depression. 
All round the city were extensive suburbs, mostly con- 
sisting of wooden buildings. Among them were many 
dismantled earthworks. These suburbs extended almost 
up to the walls of the inner city, and, since they afforded 
cover to assailants, the defenders were practically forced 
to take up position either in or in advance of them. 
They were generally called after the town the road to 
which passed through them. 

On the south side four chief roads ran into Smolensk, 
that from Warsaw entering the city from the south-west 
by Krasnoi. The road from Mohilev by Mstislavl led 
nearly directly southward ; that to Roslavl and Orel 
branched off from it near the Malakova Gate ; the Ielnia- 
Kaluga road led south-eastward for some distance, 
finally turning eastward. 


From the north gate, over a long wooden bridge, led 
three roads, that to Vitebsk on the left, that to Velizh 
and St. Petersburg in the middle, and that to Moscow on 
the right. The latter ran for some 5 miles along the bank 
of the Dnieper, and then crossed the chord of a great 
bend of the river to Solovievo, about 27 miles east of 
Smolensk, where it passed again to the south side. A 
cross-road passed by the village of Gorbunovo in a shallow 
curve to the high-road at Lubino, 14 miles distant. From 
the south side of Smolensk another track crossed the 
Dnieper by a ford at Prudichevo, about 6 miles out, and 
also joined the high-road about 2 miles west of Lubino. 
These tracks must be noted, since a few days later they 
became of immense importance. 

Raievski had with him only 8 regiments and 6 batteries 
of his own corps, and Neverovski's weakened force. 
According to himself his strength (probably infantry 
and artillery only) was scarcely 13,000 men. He had 72 
guns. Realising that his duty was to contest the city 
inch by inch, he ranged his force in advance of the 
suburbs. Paskievich's division occupied the Krasnoi 
suburb and the ditch before the citadel, with the Vilna 
Regiment from the 27th Division and a makeshift 
battalion of convalescents stationed in reserve behind 
the wall. Kolubakin's division defended the Mstislavl 
suburb, and Stavidzki's brigade of the 27th that of 
Roslavl. These 23 battalions could only guard about 
half of the south front of the suburbs. Four more were 
in reserve in the town, and only two could be spared to 
watch the line of nearly 2 miles from the Roslavl suburb 
to the river. To make the best possible show Raievski 
stationed his cavalry there. Eighteen guns were placed 
on the Royal Citadel ; the rest along the earth ramparts 
behind the walls. Thus placed, the Russians awaited 
attack. Raievski says that though he had had little rest 
the night before he could not sleep. 

In the night the Lancers of Lithuania and the New 


Russian Dragoons reached Smolensk, thus giving Raievski 
12 more squadrons, with which he strengthened his screen 
on the left. 

By 10 p.m. on the 15th the bulk of Murat's cavalry was 
about 3 miles from Smolensk, with its outposts in touch 
with Raievski. Ney's corps was immediately behind. 
Davout had reached Korythnia. The Guard was in rear 
of Davout ; the head of the 4th Corps at Liadi. The 
8th Corps had lost its way, but the 5th was nearly in line 
with Davout, and could come up in the afternoon. 
Without reckoning Eugene and the Guard, 120,000 men 
could be in front of Smolensk before evening. 

What, meanwhile, were Barclay and Bagration doing ? 
Barclay was still anxious about an attack from the direc- 
tion of Poriechie and sent pressing orders to his cavalry 
commanders to endeavour to clear up the situation. He 
doubted whether the advance on Smolensk was being 
made by more than a part of the French army. Bagration 
was directed to cross the Dnieper at Katan, and join 
Raievski and Neverovski in defending the Smolensk 
road. Dokhturov's corps would take his place at Nadva. 
Bagration moved to Katan and threw a bridge, but he 
soon became aware that to cross would simply mean his 
annihilation. He sent word to Barclay that an army 
which he estimated at 115,000 men, without Eugene 
and the Guard, was marching on Smolensk, and that he 
himself must now go thither by the right bank. The 
reports of Bagration and Raievski removed Barclay's 
doubts, and he issued orders for all his corps to march 
upon Smolensk next day. To Raievski Bagration sent 
a characteristic message : 

" Dear Friend, 

" I shall not march to rejoin you — I shall run. 
I only wish I had wings. Courage ! God will help you ! " 

At midnight on the I5th-i6th Napoleon wrote to 
Eugene saying that Smolensk was evacuated. A little 










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later Ney was ordered to occupy it. It does not appear 
that the Emperor had any definite information upon 
which to base his over-confident opinion. He seems 
indeed to have been impressed by Bagration's bridge- 
building at Katan, which had been observed on the 
15th by a reconnaissance from head-quarters. A flank 
attack upon his army as it lay stretched along the 
Rasasna-Smolensk road might have serious consequences. 
He consequently halted the whole of the 1st Corps about 
Korythnia, except Gudin's division, which continued its 
advance on Smolensk. 

Very early on the 16th the French and Russian outposts 
before Smolensk were bickering with each other. Between 
8 and 9 a.m. the bulk of Ney's and Murat's force reached 
the front. The King and the Marshal brought some 
batteries into action against Raievski's artillery, and Ney 
deployed his corps opposite the Krasnoi suburb and the 
Royal Citadel, Ledru's division on the right, Scheler's 
Wurttembergers on the left rear, Razout in reserve. 
Murat's divisions extended to the right. The advance 
posts were skirmishing hotly, and on both sides a number 
of guns were engaged, but, to the astonishment of 
Raievski, no attack was made. He spoke afterwards of 
his success having been due to the feeble measures of the 
French. Ney and Murat were, of course, awaiting orders. 
Ney also had less than 19,000 infantry, scarcely enough 
to attempt to carry the city by main force, especially 
since he did not know Raievski's strength. Napoleon 
was keeping the bulk of his army ready to face towards 
Katan and endeavouring to clear up the situation by 
reconnaissances. Towards noon he heard that the 
bridge had been removed, and started for Smolensk. 
He arrived about 1 p.m. and, going at once to the front, 
closely reconnoitred the Russian position. 

It was perhaps in consequence of inferences made from 
what he had seen, that Napoleon directed Murat and Ney 
to press their advance. The indications as to time are 


very vague, but in all probability nothing like an attack 
was made until the afternoon. Apparently about 1.30 
p.m. the Russian cavalry were forced to retire under the 
walls of the town, and the Wurttembergers began to 
press home the attack on the Krasnoi suburb. Raievski's 
line was so thin that an advance in force at any point 
would shatter it. In strengthening the defence in the 
Krasnoi suburb troops had to be moved in that direction. 
All along the opposing fronts extended a line of fire, and, 
though the attack was nowhere being energetically 
pressed, the Russian troops were almost all engaged. 
There remained in reserve only the two regiments in the 
town, when Raievski was informed that the French had 
penetrated his skeleton left and were approaching the 
bridge. He rushed off to repel them with his feeble 
reserve, and at this moment a battalion of the French 
46th, seeing the Royal Citadel almost denuded of 
defenders, dashed forward, easily mounted the crumbling 
earth rampart, and penetrated into the interior. The 
garrison, however, resisted desperately. Raievski, finding 
the report of the advance upon the bridge baseless, 
hurried back to the threatened point, supports were 
brought up, and the gallant assailants thrown back over 
the rampart just as a second battalion was mounting to 
their assistance, carrying it away in their retreat. As 
they went to the rear they were heavily fired upon, and 
suffered great loss. Elsewhere the only successes gained 
had been the driving in of stubbornly resisting outposts, 
and the French opportunity was fleeting. At 3.20 p.m. 
General Sokolnicki, a Polish officer attached to the 
General Staff, reported Russian troops on the road to 
Rudnia. Gudin's division did not reach the front until 
4 p.m., Poniatowski not until 5 p.m., and time was 
needed for the men to rest and to take up position. The 
critical period for the Russians was, in fact, over. Firing 
continued until dusk, but no attempt was made to press 
home an attack. The Russian main army was pouring 


down towards the city, and any success could hardly be 
more than a temporary one. Raievski's fine resolution 
had robbed Napoleon of his chance ; and it is no discredit 
to him that his own immediate peril had been less great 
than he had imagined. 

Bagration, despite his encouraging words, was not 
able to arrive to Raievski's assistance until the evening, 
and as the distance from Katan to Smolensk is not more 
than 17 miles, it must be supposed that he felt himself 
obliged to halt in order to become satisfied that Napoleon's 
reconnaissances did not prelude a serious attack. He 
himself hastened on to Smolensk, and having ascertained 
that Raievski was not as yet pressed and also, apparently, 
that no attack was intended at Katan, hurried back to 
the latter place and directed Borozdin on Smolensk. 
The Second Cuirassier Division had already been sent on. 
Raievski, feeling that cavalry was useless in the town, 
kept them on the north side of the Dnieper. 1 

Barclay, having convinced himself of his error as to 
the direction of Napoleon's attack, turned the heads of 
all his corps towards Smolensk, and the march was 
pressed with desperate energy. All through the hot 
summer's day, over roads so bad as not to deserve the 
name, the Russian soldiers pressed forward. Tuchkov I 
with the 3rd and 4th Corps and Uvarov's cavalry came 
from Kasplia by the Poriechie road ; the Grand Duke 
Constantine, with the 2nd and 3rd, and Korf's and 
Pahlen's cavalry, from Volokovaia by Prikaz Vidra ; 

1 This is my own explanation of what happened. Bagration says that he 
reached Smolensk at 10 a.m. ; but Raievski declares that the leading brigade 
of the 8th Corps did not arrive until past 6 p.m., and speaks of Bagration 
coming later. Either the march of the 8th Corps was much delayed, or it 
moved with amazing slowness under the circumstances. Seeing what Bagra- 
tion had written to Raievski, it is difficult to suppose that he would not make 
all speed to his rescue. It is only possible to reconcile the conflicting state- 
ments as to the hour of Bagration's arrival at Smolensk by such an assumption 
as is made in the text. For the rest it must be admitted that Bagration's 
despatches are often unreliable, and he naturally endeavoured to present 
himself in the best light. When there is a conflict of testimony between him 
and Raievski, I prefer to believe the latter. 


Dokhturov from Nadva by the Rudnia road; while 
Borozdin and Vassilchikov marched along the bank of the 
Dnieper. Tuchkov's and Dokhturov's troops had to 
march over 24 miles in a direct line without allowing for 
sinuosities in the roads and additions occasioned by 
moving into position, Constantine's over 22. Never- 
theless, by five in the afternoon the whole army was 
within easy reach of the threatened town, and an hour 
later Borozdin's leading brigade reached the bridge to 
the support of Raievski. 

Smolensk being saved, the problem before the Russian 
generals was what next to do. Barclay anticipated that, 
having failed to capture Smolensk, Napoleon's next move 
would be on Solovievo. Its seizure would force the 
Russian armies either to reopen their chief line of com- 
munications at the sword's point, with all the chances 
against them, or to retreat northward. The abandon- 
ment of Smolensk would then become practically in- 
evitable. It would, of course, have been perfectly feasible 
to leave a garrison in the place which might have held 
out for a week or two, but it may reasonably be asked 
what end could be gained by sacrificing it. At any rate, 
it was obvious that a possible French move upon Solovievo 
must be guarded against, and it was arranged that the 
Second Army should move eastward ready to anticipate 
the enemy at the threatened point, while the First re- 
mained about Smolensk to defend the line of the Dnieper. 

To this end Dokhturov, with the 6th Corps, Ko- 
novnitzin's division of the 3rd and the Chasseurs of 
the Guard, was ordered to relieve Raievski, and about 
midnight his troops arrived to take up the positions in the 
suburbs vacated by those of the former. Raievski left 
the 6th Chasseurs at the disposal of Dokhturov ; and 
the Dragoons of Siberia, Irkutsk and Orenburg replaced 
the cavalry of the Second Army. Paskievich assisted 
Dokhturov's divisional leaders in posting their troops ; 
while the 7th Corps and 27th Division crossed the Dnieper 


and rejoined the 8th Corps. Next day Bagration 
started eastward, leaving a rear-guard at She'in Ostrog, 
3 miles east of Smolensk, to guard a ford on the 

In Smolensk Likhachev's division held the Krasno'i 
suburb and the Royal Citadel, and that of Kapsevich 
those of Mstislavl and Roslavl. Konovnitzin's division 
was held in reserve. For the present the left was only 
watched by the 6th Chasseurs and the cavalry. The 
Guard Chasseurs were at the bridge. Dokhturov had 
at his disposal about 120 guns, some of which were hoisted 
on to the platforms of the towers. 

The rest of the First Army was stationed on the St. 
Petersburg road, about a mile and a half from the city, 
on a low plateau overlooking it. The corps of Baggo- 
hufwudt and Ostermann-Tolsto'i were in front line, the 
former on the right of the road, the latter on the left. On 
Baggohufwudt's right were the 1st and 2nd Cavalry 
Corps, while behind him stood Strogonov's division of the 
3rd Corps. The 3rd Cavalry Corps (less the regiments 
in Smolensk) was stationed to the left and in advance of 
the 4th Corps. The general reserve was formed by the 
5th Corps, stationed 1 verst in rear of Strogonov. Finally, 
Platov's and Karpov's Cossacks watched the course of 
the river as far as Katan. 

While Dokhturov's troops were taking up their positions 
they came into collision with the French outposts, which 
were driven back some short distance, Likhachev and 
Kapsevich making a general move forward at daybreak 
on the 17th in order to clear their front. This has been 
usually regarded as a general sortie on the part of Dokh- 
turov to regain the suburbs, but neither in the French 
documents nor in Raievski's account is there any indica- 
tion that they had been evacuated. Meanwhile, Davout's 
corps and the bulk of the Guard had arrived ; and 
Napoleon had before Smolensk on the morning of the 
17th the 1st, 3rd and 5th Corps, the Guard, and Murat's 


eight cavalry divisions — in all over 120,000 men. Junot's 
corps, owing to a series of mischances and misdirections, 
for which Napoleon blamed Junot, and the latter his 
senior divisional commander Tharreau, was still in rear. 
Latour-Maubourg was observing the country some 
distance to the south, while the 4th Corps was extended 
from Korythnia back to Rasasna. 

Napoleon was still uneasy concerning the Russian 
troops at Katan, so much so that on the 17th, by his 
orders, Ney sent thither Mourier's cavalry brigade, 
supported by 6 battalions of Wurtembergers and 6 guns, 
to guard against a possible flank attack. The force 
had a sharp action with the Cossacks and supporting 
infantry, which cost them 11 officers and probably 200 
men killed and wounded. 

During the morning there was continual skirmishing 
in the suburbs, but it was not until past midday that 
Napoleon ordered the advance. His reasons for assaulting 
the city at all are obscure, but it is possible that he 
expected to be able to carry the suburbs without excessive 
difficulty, and that the old walls of the city would easily 
yield to a steady cannonade. He may have counted 
upon the disadvantage of Dokhturov's position on a 
down slope, and on the fact that he himself could over- 
look both the city and the opposite bank of the river. 
Bogdanovich says that he wished to cross the Dnieper 
and cut off Bagration's army, and only when no ford 
could be found did he make a direct assault — but there 
is no trace of this in the French documents. De Chambray 
thinks that Napoleon expected the Russians to deliver 
battle before the city. But from his higher ground he 
could see every movement of troops from Barclay's 
position. He therefore had no grounds for making such 
an assumption, and there is no reason for supposing that 
he did so. It is, of course, possible that he hoped by 
developing an assault, to induce Barclay to support 
Dokhturov with the bulk of his forces and fight with his 


back to the river, but there appears to be no evidence 
in favour of the supposition. 

At about 12.30 the French advanced to the attack. 
Ney moved against the Royal Citadel and the Krasnoi 
suburb, with Ledru's division on the right, the remainder 
of the Wiirttembergers on the left, and Razout in reserve. 
Davout assailed the Mstislavl suburb, Morand's division 
in the centre, Friant's on the right, and Gudin's, accom- 
panied by the Marshal in person, on the left. Compans 
and Desaix were in reserve. Still farther to the right 
advanced Poniatowski's corps, with Zayonczek's division 
marching on the left against the Malakova Gate, and 
Kniaziewicz's on the right against the Nikolska suburb. 
The whole east front of the city was merely observed by 
Murat's cavalry. 

On the whole the attack was, up to a certain point, 
successful — as might have been expected, when some 
55,000 infantry were advancing downhill against about 
19,000, whose position among a straggling maze of timber 
buildings was swept by the fire of over 300 guns. Progress 
was, however, very slow. Ledru and the Wiirttembergers 
eventually carried the riverine suburbs, but could get no 
farther ; the Royal Citadel, now formidably armed and 
garrisoned, defied attack. Davout's three splendid 
divisions went forward with admirable determination, 
drove Kapsevich's troops into the suburbs, and gained 
ground steadily, though at the price of very severe 
losses. On the right the Poles, after fierce fighting, 
captured the suburbs opposite to them, but, coming 
under the fire from the ramparts, were brought to a 
stand. The result was that by five o'clock the French 
and Poles had carried all the suburbs. Kapsevich's 
division was being pressed back towards the walls by 
Davout's advance. Konovnitzin's troops had all been 
used up in supporting the fighting line. 

On the French right the Russian dragoons were 
charged and driven back into the city by the Polish 


cavalry. A battery of heavy artillery opened from the 
north bank of the Dnieper and checked the pursuers, 
but as it was isolated the Poles, with great gallantry, 
forded the river and rode forward to charge. They were 
attacked and repulsed by the escort of Barclay, who had 
just come thither to reconnoitre. A Lancer regiment was 
then detailed to escort the battery. Murat and Ponia- 
towski now established a mass of artillery on the bank 
which fired over the city upon the permanent bridge and 
the temporary ones which had been thrown near it. 
Barclay thereupon placed several batteries in position 
on the north bank opposite the French and Polish guns, 
and after a hot cannonade succeeded in silencing them 
or forcing them to withdraw. Sir Robert Wilson 
says that he chose the position for the Russian 

As he saw himself driven from the suburbs Dokhturov 
sent to Barclay for reinforcements. The latter sent an 
encouraging message ; and ordered forward the division 
of the young Prince Eugen of Wurttemberg, who had 
never yet commanded in action, and was burning to 
distinguish himself. Eugen reached the front at the 
most critical moment of the action. Dokhturov's 
reserves were all engaged ; Ney was furiously assailing 
the Royal Citadel ; Davout and Poniatowski had driven 
Kapsevich and Konovnitzin upon and into the city, and 
were massing for an assault on the Malakova Gate. 
Kapsevich's division was broken and crowding back in 
complete disorder ; Generals Skalon and Balla had 
fallen ; and Dokhturov, having no fresh troops to put 
in, was greatly depressed. The appearance of Eugen' s 
division relieved him. Pushnitzki's brigade was sent off 
to the right to help Likhachev against Ney, Rossi's to 
the left to strengthen the defence against Poniatowski ; 
and the Chasseur brigade, led by Eugen himself, marched 
straight forward to the Malakova Gate and, charging 
furiously out through the midst of the fugitives, re- 


occupied the covered way and checked the farther 
advance of Davout. 

The driving of the Russians out of the suburbs marked 
the end of the French success. Rossi's brigade reached 
the Royal Citadel just in time to help Likhachev to 
resist Ney's final attack, which was repelled with heavy 
loss, though Ledru and Scheler were now supported by 
the 4th Regiment from Razout's division. Dokhturov 
rallied Kapsevich's division, and posted his force along 
the walls, Prince Eugen taking command on the left. 
The French halted within musket-shot, sheltering as best 
they could behind the houses and the old earthworks 
among them, but losing heavily by the fire from the 
battlements, and especially from the light guns on the 
towers. It was clearly hopeless to attempt an assault 
until a breach had been effected, and Napoleon sent 
forward 24 12-pounder guns of the Imperial Guard, 
which joined Davout's reserve and opened a furious fire. 
The Russians retorted vigorously, and as the infantry 
attacks slackened, the battle became a tremendous 
cannonade. The Russian artillery strove its hardest 
to silence the 12-pounder batteries, but in vain ; they 
pounded steadily at the ancient walls, the gunners 
encouraged by the example set by Davout and Comte 
Sorbier, who personally directed their fire; but they 
could make little impression. Accounts are conflicting 
as to the fate of the covered way, the Russians insisting 
that they occupied it ; while the French equally declared 
that they carried it. Captain Francois of the 30 e de 
Ligne says that the enfilading fire of the French artillery 
finally obliged the Russians to abandon it ; and that 
Davout's sappers began to undermine the wall. Probably 
fortune varied at different points. It is only certain 
that the French and Poles were definitely checked at the 
wall, and the battle died out when darkness came on. 

By this time the city and suburbs were everywhere on 
fire. The French later declared that the city had been 


deliberately destroyed ; but this is entirely improbable. 
Being very largely constructed of wood, it was certain 
to take fire, and both time and means were lacking to 
extinguish a conflagration which spread with the fall of 
every shell. 

The losses on both sides had been heavy. The Russians 
had engaged only 55 battalions, and Dokhturov's entire 
force, including cavalry, Cossacks and artillery, probably 
hardly exceeded 30,000 men. Barclay probably under- 
states his loss at 4000, but no Russian authority admits 
more than 6000. Prince Eugen gives his own loss at 
1300. Though his division came into action late it must 
be remembered that one brigade had to execute a 
desperate sortie in the face of enormous odds and a 
concentrated fire of cannon and musketry. KonovnitzhYs 
division can hardly have suffered more ; that of Likhachev 
and the detachments on the left probably lost less in 
proportion. On the other hand, Kapsevich's troops must 
have lost heavily. Probably the Russian figure of 6000 
casualties is near the mark. In other words, Dokhturov 
had lost one-fifth of his effective strength. Raievski 
estimated his losses on the 16th at about 1000, giving a 
Russian total for the two days of 7000. 

The French losses were naturally much greater, since 
they had brought far larger numbers into action, but 
were apparently not heavier in proportion. Davout 
gave the losses of the 1st Corps at from 5000 to 6000 men. 
Gudin returned a loss in his single division of 294 killed 
and 1436 wounded, and his list was by no means com- 
plete. The 7th Leger, for example, figures in it for 655 
casualties, while, according to its Colonel, it had 707. 
Ney, according to Martinien's lists, had 129 officers killed 
and wounded in his infantry and cavalry, and his total 
loss must have been in the neighbourhood of 3500. 
Poniatowski reported a loss of 518 killed and 812 wounded; 
we must suppose that only the seriously hurt were 
registered. Reckoning the Polish losses at 2000, Ney's 


at 3500, Davout's at 5500, and adding a possible 1000 for 
losses among the artillery, reserve cavalry and Guard, 
we have a total of 12,000. Prisoners there were few on 
either side. 

At n p.m. Barclay issued orders to evacuate Smolensk. 
He stated in his memoir to the Tzar that he had only 
intended to hold it to give Bagration time to get well 
forward on the Moscow road. This end was now at- 
tained, but the result of the order was what practically 
amounted to an open mutiny. A number of general 
officers, headed by the Grand Duke Constantine and by 
Bennigsen, who had no command and was not entitled 
to be present, went to Barclay's quarters and furiously 
protested against the abandonment of the city. Sir 
Robert Wilson received urgent letters from many generals 
on the same subject. Bagration, though he was not 
personally concerned in the mutinous demonstration, 
was bitterly indignant at Barclay's determination. He 
persisted that the First Army could easily hold its ground 
on the high ground behind Smolensk, while the Second 
Army could pass the Dnieper and attack Napoleon in 
flank. Barclay was of opinion that for the Second Army 
to adventure itself over the Dnieper would mean its 
destruction, and that, as regarded holding the line of the 
Dnieper, Napoleon had merely to extend his right to cut 
the Russian communications. Furthermore, he points 
out bitterly, operations of this kind, to be successful, 
require harmony between commanders. Towards the 
mutinous deputation he acted with firmness and dignity. 
He declined to withdraw his orders, and bade them 
leave his presence. Foiled in the attempt to bring 
pressure to bear upon him, the malcontents enlisted 
Wilson on their side, and induced him, as a personal 
friend of Alexander, to carry a letter to St. Petersburg 
demanding a new general. They also entrusted him with 
a declaration on their part that if orders came from the 
capital to suspend hostilities the army would regard 


them as not truly expressive of the Tzar's real deter- 
mination, and would continue the struggle. All this was 
not altogether discreditable to the hearts of the generals, 
if it did no special honour to their heads. Wilson, who 
had rather hastily concluded that Barclay was not a fit 
person for the post of commander-in-chief and was also, 
it is to be feared, unduly influenced by his personal 
feelings towards Bennigsen and Bagration, accepted the 
mission. The result of wasting time in this mutinous 
delegation was that the retirement from Smolensk was 
not properly carried out. 

Dokhturov withdrew his four divisions from the city 
without great difficulty, carrying off all his guns and all 
but the most severely injured of his wounded, took up 
the temporary bridges, broke the permanent structure, 
and was safe. But in the confusion at head-quarters no 
measures had been taken for properly occupying the 
tete (lit pont on the right bank. At 2 a.m. Ney ascertained 
that the wall in his front was deserted and entered the 
city, while a little later Davout also marched in by the 
Malakova Gate. The bridge was broken, but the river 
was only four feet deep, and at 9 a.m. a detachment of 
600 Wurttembergers and Portuguese dashed through it 
and surprised the tete du pont. The Chasseurs holding it 
were driven out pell-mell. Hugel's Wurttemberg brigade 
at once followed ; Ney brought up his artillery to the 
river's edge and the work was maintained. Barclay could 
only mask it with his rear-guard, under Baron Korff , con- 
sisting of 7 regiments of Chasseurs and 3 of Lancers and 
Hussars, which occupied the northern suburb. Davout 
promptly set to work to restore the bridge. 

Barclay did not at once commence his retreat. For 
this Clausewitz blames him severely, but it must be 
remembered that on the 16th his whole army had made 
a forced march, and that on the 17th part of it had been 
heavily engaged. Then also he was probably still 
harassed and distracted by the mutinous state of his 


subordinates. For the moment his firmness appears to 
have crushed insubordination. The Grand Duke was 
sent off to St. Petersburg under the pretext that his 
presence was needed there. Otherwise Barclay's delay 
was perhaps due to a desire to mislead Napoleon as to his 
line of retreat. In this he certainly succeeded ; but it 
was scarcely necessary to retain the whole of his army in 
position ; a well-handled rear-guard could have masked 
the direction of the march. 

Early on the 18th Napoleon was at the river-bank 
opposite Korff's position, but then he appears to have 
retired to rest, after sending a brief letter to Maret at 
Vilna to announce the capture of Smolensk. He certainly 
may have needed sleep, and it may also be imagined 
that the bulk of the army, which had fought all day 
and been astir all night, was reposing. At any rate the 
day was one of inaction for both sides, except at the 
bridge, where desultory fighting went on until nightfall. 
Ney slowly reinforced the tete du pont by means of boats 
and rafts, but the bridge could not be completed until 
Korff withdrew. It does not seem to have been ready 
until late at night. During the day Junot's corps and 
the head of the 4th reached Smolensk. 

There is some reason to believe that on this day 
Bagration's ugly temper led him into the commission of 
what was practically an act of treason. He took off his 
entire army to Solovievo, leaving only four regiments of 
Cossacks at the important road junction at Lubino. As 
the high-road by the river was commanded by French 
artillery on the south bank, Barclay would be forced to 
use for his retreat the cross-road by Gorbunovo, which 
reached the highway at Lubino, and certainly a handful of 
light horsemen was a most inadequate guard for this vital 
last point. Barclay says that he only learnt at the last 
moment that it was practically uncovered. Bagration's 
retreat was natural, now that Smolensk was abandoned, 
but in leaving no infantry at Lubino, and not apparently 


informing his colleague, he committed, to say the least 
of it, a very dubious action. Otherwise the incident 
throws light on the bad staff-work of the Russians, and 
one may fairly ask why Yermolov and St. Priest were 
not in close and frequent communication with each other. 

Between 7 and 8 p.m. Dokhturov, with the 5th and 
6th Corps, and Korff's and Pahlen's cavalry (less detach- 
ments to rear-guard), was ordered to march by cross-roads 
to Solovievo. An hour or so later the 2nd, 3rd and 4th 
Corps, with Uvarov's cavalry corps, started by the 
Gorbunovo track for Lubino. At this moment apparently, 
Barclay heard that there were no troops at that vital 
point except Karpov's Cossacks. He at once directed 
Major-General Tuchkov III with the Yelisabetgrad 
Hussars, the Revel Regiment, the 20th and 21st Chasseurs 
and a horse artillery battery to hasten thither. At 2 a.m. 
Korff withdrew from before Smolensk. 

From the first everything went wrong. The retreating 
columns encountered all kinds of difficulties. The roads 
were, of course, unspeakable. Gullies were frequent, and 
often had to be bridged for the artillery to pass, nothing 
having been done in advance by the inefficient staff. 
The darkness and the troubles incidental to filing some 
40,000 men along a single bad track caused endless 
delays. To crown all, the column missed its way and 
wandered into a side track, with the result that at day- 
break its rear was only 2 or 3 miles north-east of the St. 
Petersburg suburb ! On the withdrawal of Korff, 
Davout had completed his bridge-restoring, and at 4 a.m. 
Ney's main body began to pass. 

Barclay, whose great military virtue was perfect self- 
possession in the face of danger, ordered Prince Eugen, 
with as much of his division as remained with him, to 
take up a position at the hamlet of Gedeonovo, bidding 
him recollect that the fate of the army might depend 
upon his firmness. Ney's advance-guard was soon in 
contact with Eugen, who held his ground obstinately, 


in order to give Korff time to file past. After a good deal 
of fighting Eugen was forced back, but by that time Korff 
had got his 14 battalions on to the Gorbunovo-Lubino 
track. Eugen then fell back to another position towards 
Gorbunovo, and Ney was preparing to follow, when orders 
arrived directing him to incline to his right to the Moscow 
road. This appears to have been about n a.m. 

Early on the 19th Napoleon sent Eble to Prudichevo 
to bridge the Dnieper, and ordered Junot's corps to cross 
the river there, a movement which would bring him to 
Lubino. Grouchy was sent along the St. Petersburg 
road, Montbrun along that to Moscow, while Bruyere's 
division of Nansouty's corps was ordered to support Ney. 
Evidently Napoleon had no certainty as to the precise 
direction of Barclay's retreat, and so far the Russian 
general's delay on the 18th had justified itself. About 
11 a.m. Davout's corps began to cross the bridge. The 
Guard, now rejoined by Claparede, was in Smolensk. 
Eugene and Poniatowski were in the ruins of the suburbs. 
The Emperor apparently spent the morning in his 
cabinet, but in the afternoon mounted and proceeded 
to the high ground east of the city, opposite She'in Ostrog. 

General Tuchkov III in his march had to contend 
with the same difficulties and obstacles which impeded 
the main column, so that he did not reach the Moscow 
road, some 4 miles west of Lubino, until 8 a.m. Toll 
accompanied him, and they went forward to confer with 
Karpov. It soon became evident that a force of cavalry, 
presumably the advance-guard of Napoleon's main body, 
was moving eastward from Smolensk, and also that a 
strong column was passing the Dnieper at Prudichevo. 
Tuchkov pushed Karpov out to observe Junot, and with 
his own column took up a position across the road, where 
it passed over a low swell, with his flanks covered by 
some small woods and his twelve guns on the crest of 
the rise, and awaited events. 

Soon after 10 o'clock skirmishing began on the high- 


road, probably with the advanced guard of Bruyere's 
division, supported perhaps by some battalions of light 
infantry ; but it cannot have been until about 1 p.m. 
that the head of Ney's main column appeared, and the 
battle of Lubino definitely began. 1 By this time the 3rd 
Corps, which was at the head of Barclay's column, had 
reached Lubino. As it tramped through, Tuchkov I 
detached Tornov's brigade of Grenadiers to support his 

At 1 p.m. the head of Ney's infantry column began to 
attack. The Russians offered a steady resistance, and it 
was not until three that, seeing the heavy masses coming 
into line, and knowing that Junot was threatening his 
left, Tuchkov decided to withdraw behind the Stragan 
rivulet, some 2 miles to his rear, and about the same 
distance from Lubino. Ney inferred from the obstinate 
resistance that Tuchkov covered some important move- 
ment, and asked Napoleon for support. It was probably 
while he was awaiting a reply that Tuchkov drew off, 
covered by his cavalry, towards Lubino. Napoleon 
ordered Gudin's division to reinforce Ney, sent Morand's 
towards the left with a view to a turning movement, but 
gave Junot no directions ; clearly he had no conception 
of the real importance of the action. 

Meanwhile the Russians had safely retired behind the 
Stragan, where they were joined by Barclay, bringing 
with him 8 heavy guns, 7 battalions, and a mass of 
cavalry. The 3rd and 4th Corps had now reached Lubino, 
but Baggohufwudt and Korff were far to the rear, and 
the cross-road was packed with baggage and hundreds 
of guns, which would be the prey of the French could they 
break through. But Barclay on the field, calm, brave and 

1 Only thus is it possible to reconcile the statements of the Russian historians 
that the action began at 10 a.m. with that of Eugen of Wiirttemberg, that he 
did not withdraw from Gedeonovo until about that hour. Ney seems to have 
followed him to his second defensive position before he was recalled, which 
brings us to n a.m. at least ; and then time must be allowed for the march 
of nearly 6 miles to Tuchkov's front. 


resourceful, was a very different man from the anxious 
and harassed Barclay of the cabinet. Without hesitation 
he ranged his scanty force in order of battle, and ordered 
Yermolov to bring up the 3rd and 4th Corps with all 

The high-road, after crossing the Stragan, passed over 
the southern end of a low wooded plateau which extended 
northward for some 2 miles. South of the road a stretch 
of marsh, in most places passable owing to the dry weather, 
extended to the Dnieper. Out of it arose several low 
swells of firm ground, studded with hamlets and patches 
of wood. One of these lay near the road, and needed 
to be occupied. 

On the northern plateau Barclay posted 5 infantry 
regiments, and to the south of the road 2 more, with 3 
battalions in reserve. Twenty guns were posted to 
sweep the road. On the swell in the marsh he stationed 
26 squadrons of Hussars under General Orlov-Denisov. 
Of infantry and guns there were no more available, and, 
to make a show of support for Orlov-Denisov, Barclay 
ordered Uvarov's cavalry to dismount, and occupy a 
village behind the marsh on his left. At 5 o'clock, just as 
the action was renewed, Konovnitzin and, a little later, 
Choglokov arrived, bringing with them 7 regiments of 
their divisions and a horse-battery. Choglokov' s troops 
were ordered to support the cavalry, and Konovnitzin' s 
4 regiments brought up to the centre. 

At 5 p.m. Gudm's division reached the front, and Ney 
at once sent it forward, Razout's advancing level with it 
on the left. Some Wiirttemberg artillery was carried 
forward with the advance to silence Barclay's battery. 
Ledru and Scheler remained in reserve. 

Comte Gudin, one of the finest officers in the French 
service, conducted the attack with splendid vigour. The 
7th Leger, supported by 2 battalions of the 21st and 127th 
Regiments, crossed the Stragan, and, maddened by the 
fall of the General, who was struck down as he led the 



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Foiaght to cover the passage of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Russian Army Corps 
from the north of Smolensk to the Moscow road at Lubino 


charge, broke the Russian infantry to the south of the 
road and drove them back, threatening to pierce Bar- 
clay's thin defensive line. Barclay at once sent forward 
Konovnitzin's division which, charging resolutely, checked 
the advance and enabled the broken troops to rally. 
General Gerard, who succeeded to Gudin's command, 
sent forward the 12 th Regiment, and restored the battle 
on the right. Meanwhile, a fierce struggle was raging 
north of the road where Razout was making desperate 
but fruitless attempts to carry the plateau. Attack 
after attack was steadily met and repulsed. 

Beyond Gudin's right, Murat was coming up from 
Smolensk with Nansouty's and Montbrun's cavalry, 
but only his single light division (Bruyere) could be of 
much service. Still farther to the right Junot was 
advancing from Prudichevo, but showed great irresolu- 
tion. He at first declined to move at all, and what 
actually took place is very obscure. He seems, about 
five o'clock, to have reconnoitred the Russian left with 
his cavalry brigade and two battalions of light infantry ; 
and some desultory fighting ensued. His cavalry do not 
appear to have gained any success, and a company of 
light infantry which established itself across the marsh was 
destroyed by the Russian Hussars. Then, when Choglo- 
kov's infantry was seen coming into action, Junot 
formed his corps in squares opposite the Russian left. 
At last General Ochs obtained permission to advance 
with 2 battalions of light infantry, presently supported 
by Junot with 4 companies of Voltigeurs. He was 
successful in driving back the Russian outposts, and with 
this Junot's attack came to an end. Murat had obliged 
Karpov's Cossacks to retire behind the main Russian 
line, and his light horsemen executed one or two more 
or less successful charges on Orlov-Denisov's troopers, 
but without Junot's co-operation he could do no more. 
At 6 p.m. Tuchkov I had brought forward all his corps, 
and was himself at Lubino with his 3 rear-guard regiments, 


and 3 horse batteries which he had drawn out of the 
stream of retreating artillery. The position was still 
critical. Baggohufwudt had not yet arrived. Korff was 
still farther back ; the trains were still pouring along 
the road from Gedeonovo. But everyone on the Russian 
side was at last thoroughly awake to the emergency. 
Every attempt was made to hasten the march ; and the 
incompetent gilded youth of the General Staff, at whom 
Eugen of Wurttemberg sneers bitterly, were doing useful 
work in saving the trains and the precious artillery. At 
Lubino the bridge was utterly inadequate for the vast 
throng of vehicles. Prince Alexander of Wurttemberg 
suggested that another should be made. Lowenstern 
dismounted a squadron of Hussars and set them to tear 
down the houses, while Alexander and Baron Salza 
went with a company of pioneers to the stream ; and so, 
by desperate exertions, a bridge was constructed, to 
which a part of the mass was diverted. The tracks 
were all but impassable in many places, and had to be 
corduroyed and made up with fascines and boughs 
before the trains could be got forward. The gunners 
and drivers, admirably directed and encouraged by 
Count Kutai'sov, made superhuman exertions to drag the 
artillery along, and, to their glory, not a gun or caisson 
was abandoned. 

On the Stragan the battle raged with unabated fury. 
Barclay de Tolly was doing his uttermost, and though 
the line was often shaken it was always reformed and 
steadied. Some of Ledru's and Scheler's troops en- 
deavoured to get round the Russian right, but their 
attempts had no result ; the Revel Regiment and the 
Bodyguard Grenadiers, fighting doggedly with the 
bayonet, held them off ; while Konovnitzin and Tuchkov 
III still successfully defended the road. About seven 
Ney made a general advance, calling up his reserves and 
sending forward every available man. Gerard joined in 
on the right, throwing in his last three battalions. The 


Russian position was critical, for Barclay had sent 
forward all his reserves ; but at this moment Baggo- 
hufwudt's corps at last made its appearance. Olsuviev's 
division, which was marching at its head, was at once 
put in ; and again the opposing forces closed in deadly 
strife. At first it seemed as if the French would carry all 
before them in their impetuous onslaught, and matters 
looked so dark that Tuchkov III went himself to ask 
Barclay for aid — as did Windham in 1855 in the Great 
Redan of Sevastopol. Barclay was furious. " Go back 
to your post," he stormed, " and get yourself killed ! 
If you come back I'll shoot you ! " 

Colonel Voikov came up the road with his heavy 
battery just in time to check Gerard's onslaught. Still 
the French held their own and, believing themselves 
victorious, were slowly gaining ground ; when Eugen's 
division at length marched upon the field, and Tuchkov, 
burning to redeem himself, led on a counter-attack. 
He himself was wounded and taken at the head of the 
Ekaterinoslav Regiment, but Eugen at once supported, 
and after a bitter struggle, in which the bayonet was 
freely employed, the French were finally repulsed. It 
was 9 o'clock when the roar of conflict died away in the 
darkness. Korff had reached the field ; the artillery 
and trains were on the way to Solovievo ; and the Russians 
had gained a great strategic victory. 

Morand's division had been unable to come into action, 
having been entangled in a piece of virgin forest, and was 
eventually recalled by Napoleon. It has been suggested 
that had he been allowed to continue his advance it 
would have ensured the destruction of the Russian army. 
Lacking definite information as to time and topography, 
it is difficult to express an opinion, but, judging from 
such descriptions as are available, it seems very doubtful 
whether Morand could have debouched with a force 
strong enough to be effective. 

Barclay, having attained the object for which he had 


stood to fight, had no intention of waiting to be over- 
whelmed by Napoleon's main army about Smolensk. 
At 4 a.m. on the 20th his much-tried troops evacuated 
the field, and marched 20 miles to Solovievo, where 
Dokhturov arrived the same day. Bagration, having 
thrown three bridges over the Dnieper, was already 
across. On the 21st the First Army followed, took up 
the bridges, and marched for Dorogobuzh. 

French writers for the most part consider Lubino, or 
Valutina-Gora as they call it, a victory, but to regard it 
thus is merely to make a mock of the word. A battle is 
not necessarily fought for the possession of a few yards 
of ground. Barclay had fought at Lubino in order to 
secure the safe passage of his right column into the 
Moscow road. This had been successfully achieved, and 
very heavy loss inflicted on the pursuers, who had failed 
to capture a single gun or any appreciable amount of 
baggage. Napoleon regarded the battle as a mere 
advance-guard engagement. Had he realised its real 
importance he would not have failed to send forward 
everything available. Barclay must have been disas- 
trously defeated, and probably driven northward with 
the remains of his army. 

The French had on the field at Lubino about 50,000 
men, of whom perhaps 37,000 were seriously engaged. 
The number of Russian troops successively brought 
into action was probably about 30,000. The losses were 
naturally heavy. Gerard alone reported 2297 killed 
and wounded, and Ney can hardly have lost less than 4000. 
Junot probably overestimated his losses at 700, but, 
including casualties among Murat's cavalry, the French 
total must have been over 7000 . The losses of the Russians 
were probably rather less, as they were standing on the 
defensive, and for the most part succeeded in repelling 
attack, nevertheless, they were very heavy — probably in 
the neighbourhood of 5000. Few prisoners were taken — 
not more than some hundreds on both sides. 


It is impossible to conclude this chapter without some 
remarks upon the strategy which led up to the battles 
about Smolensk. It is tolerably certain, judging from the 
evidence of documents, that Napoleon's plan of marching 
upon Smolensk by the left bank of the Dnieper was a j 
preconceived one. Considered by itself, there is little 
to say of the manoeuvre. It was in no way hazardous, 
since the left flank of the columns moving from Vitebsk 
was covered by forests, and once across the Dnieper the 
march was protected by the river against a Russian 1 
flank attack. Moreover, having two lines of supply, 
Napoleon risked nothing by moving his army across : 
from one to the other. 

The manoeuvre was certainly unexpected by the 
Russian leaders — except perhaps by Bagration — and it j 
is clear that it was only the firmness of Raievski and i 
the prompt return of the main army that saved Smolensk 
from falling into Napoleon's hands. 

Nevertheless, when we turn from the manoeuvre to its 
purpose it seems doubtful whether it was by any means j 
the best under the circumstances. 

Napoleon's object was the bringing to bay of the Russian 1 
main army and the crushing of it in a decisive battle. 
As the Russians had chosen to take the offensive, the i 
opportunity was apparently in his hands. Barclay might 
march fast enough to force an engagement before 
Davout could arrive from Orsha, but even so Napoleon 
could meet him with equal or superior numbers. If Bar- 
clay returned to the defensive, Napoleon's best manoeuvre 
was to advance to Poriechie, threatening the Russian 
communications with Moscow. To reopen them Barclay 
and Bagration must either give battle or retreat eastward 
in all haste, in which case Smolensk would fall of itself. 
The utmost that could be expected of the march south 
of the Dnieper was that the Russians might be forestalled 
at Smolensk. 

The modern French opinion appears to be that this 


forestalling was the essence of the plan, and that Napoleon, 
having occupied the city, intended to debouch from it 
and attack Barclay and Bagration in the rear. 

To the writer it appears that all criticism must neces- 
sarily base itself upon the fact that Napoleon's strategy 
was preconceived. Before he knew anything of the 
Russian plans he had practically made up his mind to 
advance on Smolensk by the left bank of the Dnieper. 
The offensive movement of the Russians produced no 
change in his resolution. 

It is highly probable that his determination was taken 
on grounds not purely military. He must by now have 
recognised that warfare in Russia was subject to con- 
ditions which did not obtain in Germany or Austria. 
His opponents were elusive ; but there were certain 
places regarded by soldiers and people as holy, which 
the popular voice would probably force the generals to 
make a show of defending. He therefore resolved to 
threaten Smolensk directly, believing that thereby the 
Russian army would be constrained to give battle. 

Even so it appears somewhat doubtful whether this 
end could not have been as well attained by manoeuvring 
on the right bank. The advance by the left appears to 
have assumed that Smolensk would be uncovered and 
undefended, and that the Russian field army would 
be too far away to return to its rescue. Napoleon, on this 
hypothesis, would have been able to occupy it and give 
battle to his outmanoeuvred opponents with all the 
prestige of the capture of the sacred city behind his 
onset. As a fact Barclay had provided for speedy 
information by his flank-guard under Neverovski, and 
his resolution not to move far from Smolensk afforded 
the means of frustrating Napoleon's strategy. That he 
only arrived in the nick of time hardly affects the dis- 
cussion, since his obsession about an attack from the 
direction of Poriechie delayed him for a day. On the 
other hand, Napoleon's hesitation, owing to the appear- 


ance of Bagration's army at Katan, also caused him to 
lose a day, during which Barclay was able to arrive. 

According to Barclay's memoir to the Tzar he had no 
intention of wasting his army in the defence of Smolensk, 
a place of no military value, and merely held it in order 
to allow Bagration time to occupy Solovievo. Bagration 
and the majority of the Russian generals appear to have 
expected that he would have made it the centre of the 
Russian operations. It is, of course, possible that Barclay, 
harassed and perplexed, did make some conditional 
promise as to defending Smolensk should a favourable 
opportunity offer. General Okunev — who may perhaps 
voice the views of Paskievich — apparently thinks that 
it could have been held. But it must be said that as the 
Russians' line of retreat was in extension of their left 
flank such a policy would have been hazardous at best. 
There seems every reason to believe that Barclay's 
ideas were sound ; what he lacked was commanding 
strength of character to enforce them on his unruly 

Napoleon's assault upon Smolensk is very difficult 
to account for : and led to little but waste of human life. 



IT has been seen that when King Jerome resigned 
his command, the 5th and 8th Corps went to 
reinforce Davout, Latour-Maubourg to observe 
Bobruisk, while the 7th Corps returned to Slonim. 
Reynier was instructed to take the place of Schwarzenberg 
in guarding the frontier of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, 
while the latter marched on Minsk. Reynier himself was 
convinced that his corps was far too weak for the pre- 
scribed duty, while he had better information than his 
master of Tormazov's real strength. Nevertheless he 
endeavoured to carry out Napoleon's orders. On the 
19th he ordered Klengel's infantry brigade and a regi- 
ment of cavalry to take the place of an Austrian detach- 
ment at Kobrin. On the same day Schwarzenberg 
informed Napoleon that Tormazov had some 30,000 men 
at Lutsk. The Emperor, however, was sceptical. On 
the 22nd he ordered Reynier to enter Volhynia, saying 
that Tormazov's "army" was merely a collection of 
reserve battalions. On the same day he told Davout 
that Tormazov had only 8000 men of 3rd battalions. 
The movements which he had ordered continued, and by 
the 24th the Austrians were about Slonim, on the way to 
Minsk, while the 7th Corps, moving in the opposite 
direction, was approaching Kobrin, some 30 miles east 
of Brest-Litovsk. 

Napoleon's information was hopelessly inaccurate. 
So far he could not be accountable for the unforeseen 



situation which was now to disclose itself. But his 
refusal to believe Schwarzenberg and Reynier is distinctly 
blameworthy, and can only be attributed to the fatal 
optimism which had now become fixed in him. 

General Tormazov, when hostilities broke out, com- 
manded an army which was neither concentrated nor 
complete in its organisation. Three infantry divisions, 
a brigade of combined Grenadier companies, 3 regiments 
of Hussars, and a cavalry corps 36 squadrons strong, were 
scattered over western Volhynia. General Sacken's 
reserve troops — 12 depleted battalions and 24 squadrons 
— were at Zaslavl and Staroi Konstantinov near the 
frontier of Podolia, and the irregulars were scattered 
along the Austrian and Polish borders. It was not 
until the middle of July that a respectable force was at 
last concentrated near Lutsk. 

Tormazov' s original task was the defence of Volhynia, 
but Napoleon showed no intention of making any eccentric 
movements in that direction. On hearing of Bagration's 
retreat on Bobruisk, he thought that he himself might 
be obliged to fall back towards Kiev, in order not entirely 
to lose touch with the Second Army. By the middle of 
July, however, the situation became clearer. The allied 
troops were pouring along the Warsaw-Smolensk road, 
and there were only few and small detachments guarding 
the Polish frontier. He therefore determined to invade 
the Grand Duchy of Warsaw by way of Lublin ; and 
General Lambert, his cavalry commander, had already 
crossed the Bug, when he was recalled. 

On July 17th instructions reached Tormazov from 
Alexander to advance northward against the flanks and 
rear of the forces that were opposed to Bagration. Iti 
is probable that this manoeuvre promised more immediate 
results than the contemplated advance on Warsaw. At 
the same time it is by no means certain that Tormazov 
was wrong in his original decision. The capture of 
Warsaw would have been a terrific shock to Napoleon's 


prestige. The Russians could not have held it long, but 
they would have been able to destroy the depots there 
collected, and might have cut up Reynier's corps had 
Napoleon, as was probable, urged it in overhasty pursuit 
of an enemy whose strength he underestimated. In 
that case Napoleon would have been obliged to divert 
against him not merely Schwarzenberg's Austrians, but 
perhaps also the 8th Corps. In any case he would have 
been forced to employ some of his new formations in the 
rear to meet the irruption. 

The plan now imposed upon Tormazov had the 
advantage that it must, in the nature of things, call back 
Schwarzenberg from his march to reinforce Davout. On 
the other hand, it involved passing the Pinsk Marshes, 
which would oppose a dangerous barrier to retreat in 
case of a reverse ; and the chances of crushing the 7th 
Corps were minimised, since a few concentric marches 
would unite Reynier and Schwarzenberg. 

General Sacken with his reserves had been left in 
eastern Volhynia ; some of his troops were detached to 
strengthen the force at Mozyr. On July 22 Tormazov 
ordered Lambert to leave General Kruchov, with a 
brigade of dragoons and 2 regiments of Cossacks, to 
observe the Polish frontier, and with 4 battalions, 16 
squadrons, 5 Cossack regiments and 6 guns, to march by 
both banks of the Bug upon Brest-Litovsk. Four bat- 
talions and 7 squadrons, under Major-General Melissino, 
were to make a demonstration towards Pinsk, while the 
corps of Kamenski and Markov advanced upon Brest- 
Litovsk and Kobrin. Tormazov's strength, exclusive of 
Kruchov, was probably about 36,000 men, with 144 
guns. He was consequently nearly three times as strong 
as Reynier's corps ; but the latter could be sustained 
within a few days by 30,000 Austrians. 

On the 24th Reynier's main body was about Bez- 
dizh on the Brest-Litovsk-Pinsk high-road. Klengel's 
brigade occupied Kobrin. Two squadrons of cavalry 


were at Brest, and another detachment was on the road 
to Pinsk. Reynier's small corps was thus spread out over 
a line of 80 miles. Reynier appears to have realised his 
danger, and provided against it to the best of his ability 
by keeping his main body together. He was perhaps to 
blame in detaching Klengel, but in justice it must be 
said that his duties were out of all proportion to his 

On the 24th Lambert expelled the Saxon cavalry from 
Brest-Litovsk. Melissino drove in the outposts on 
Reynier's left, and occupied Pinsk, expelling its Austrian 
garrison and capturing a gun. Reynier was thus alarmed 
on both flanks, and doubted in which direction to turn. 
Early on the 27th Tormazov's advanced guard, under 
Major-General Chaplitz, approached Kobrin from the 
south, while at the same time Lambert's cavalry came 
up from the west. His infantry, who were fatigued by 
hard marching, he had left in the rear. 

Klengel's brigade consisted of only about 2600 men 
with 8 guns. Obviously he could make no effective 
resistance to the Russian army ; but he considered 
himself bound by Reynier's orders to defend Kobrin to 
the last extremity. Reynier's comment was that, being 
the advanced guard of the corps, the brigade should have 
retired when it became obvious that it ran the risk of 
being surrounded. It appears to be a somewhat uncertain 
point among military men as to how far detachment 
commanders are justified in departing from the letter of 
their orders. On the morning of the 27th Klengel's line 
of retreat on Pruzhani was certainly open. On the other 
hand, his corps commander would probably come by the 
Pinsk road ; and he appears to have made at least one 
attempt to break through in that direction, which gives 
some index to what was passing in his mind. By midday 
Lambert had cut the road to Pruzhani, and the brigade 
was surrounded. The Saxons were driven by over- 
whelming numbers from their hasty entrenchments into 


the town, and after a gallant resistance, and having 
expended all their ammunition, were forced, about 2 p.m., 
to surrender. They had lost 76 killed and 182 wounded, 
including 13 officers. Seventy-six officers and 2382 rank 
and file were captured, with 8 guns and 4 standards. 1 
Reynier' s advance-guard had only reached Horodetz, 
about 11 miles east of Kobrin, when it was met by fugitives 
who bore tidings of the disaster. 

Tormazov, with diplomatic courtesy, complimented the 
Saxon officers on their really creditable defence, and re- 
turned them their swords. He could not, however, push 
his advance. His commissariat was defective and supplies 
were running short. He had also his prisoners to dispose 
of. His infantry were fatigued with hard marching on 
execrable roads. He therefore was obliged to halt for 
two days, which Reynier utilised to effect his retreat. 
He appealed for help to Schwarzenberg, who informed 
Napoleon that Reynier was too weak to resist Tormazov, 
who was estimated to be 40,000 strong, and that he must 
perforce turn back to his rescue from Nesvizh. On 
August 2nd he reached Polonka, 18 miles from Slonim, 
now occupied by Reynier. Tormazov, leaving Kobrin 
on the 30th, occupied Pruzhani and Antopol and pushed 
out detachments ; while Kruchov's force crossed the 
Bug and made reconnaissances towards Warsaw. The 
Poles were panic-stricken ; and Loison, the Governor of 
Konigsberg, thought it necessary to advance towards 
Bielostok with nearly the whole of his force — some 
10,000 men. More than this Tormazov could not do. 
He was still very short of supplies ; every march in 
advance took him farther from his base, and he had the 
Pinsk Marshes in his rear. 

Napoleon, probably with some misgivings, informed 
Schwarzenberg on July 31st that he was to support 

1 Klengel gives his whole strength as only 1985; but he had obvious 
motives for minimising the disaster. The figures given in the text are 
confirmed by the muster-rolls of the 7th Corps. 


Reynier according to his information, which, as he was on 
the spot, must necessarily be better than that of the 
Emperor. On August 2nd he placed the 7th Corps under 
his orders, and instructed him to march against Tormazov 
and drive him into Volhynia. The Government at Warsaw 
meanwhile was making desperate efforts to form a field 
force at Zamosc, under General Kosinski. 

On August 3rd the Austrians and Saxons were in close 
communication, and on the 4th the united force began to 
advance. Tormazov's advanced guards were attacked 
on August 8th and driven back, except at Pruzhani, 
from which Lambert was only expelled on the 10th after 
a well-contested rear-guard action. Tormazov, finding 
his outposts everywhere assailed by superior forces, 
ordered Markov and Kamenski to Gorodeczna, about 
half-way from Pruzhani to Kobrin. Lambert and 
Markov united there in the night of the ioth-nth, and 
next day Kamenski also arrived. Melissino's detach- 
ment and the other advanced guards, under Generals 
Chaplitz and Prince Khovanski, could not rejoin under 
some days. Tormazov therefore had only 24 battalions, 
36 squadrons, and 3 regiments of Cossacks, amounting 
with artillery to about 21,000 men. In artillery, however, 
he was strong, having 84 pieces, a large proportion of 
which were heavy. 

The Russian position was a fairly strong one, if defended 
by adequate numbers. The Pruzhani- Kobrin road passes 
over a low plateau, at the foot of which flows a marshy 
stream. This plateau is some three miles long and a 
little less in breadth. It extends roughly east and west, 
its eastern extremity being opposite Gorodeczna. West 
of it is a valley about a mile in breadth, beyond which 
rises a second plateau, thickly wooded, through which 
another road leads from the village of Cherechev to join 
that to Kobrin some miles south-west of Gorodeczna. 
The eastern end of the plateau was also shut in by woods. ! 
Besides the causeway across the marsh at Gorodeczna, 


there was a second at Poddubno about three miles 
above, and a third a mile farther on at the Cherechev 
road. Obviously all should have been guarded ; but 
only that at Gorodeczna was actually held. The reasons 
for this extraordinary oversight are not clear. It is 
possible that Tormazov expected a turning movement 
on the right rather than the left. It is also possible that 
he did not intend to fight a general action, but only a 
rear-guard engagement, in order to gain time for Chaplitz, 
Khovanski and Melissino to close up. Apparently also 
he considered that Schwarzenberg and Reynier were 
following him in one column on the Kobrin road. In any 
case he merely kept the bulk of his force opposite Goro- 
deczna. His opponents were moving in two columns, 
the Austrians upon Gorodeczna, Reynier with the Saxons 
on the right towards Poddubno. Schwarzenberg had 
made considerable detachments to guard his communica- 
tions, but his entire force can hardly have numbered less 
than 36,000 men, including 12,000 Saxons, with 96 guns. 

Reynier pointed out to Schwarzenberg that Tormazov's 
negligence afforded opportunities for a flanking move- 
ment. Schwarzenberg assented and supported him 
with Siegenthal's division, Hesse-Homburg's brigade of 
Bianchi's division, and a brigade of light cavalry, while 
with the rest of his forces he observed the main Russian 
force. Tormazov was drawn up in three lines on the 
Kobrin road, facing Gorodeczna, Markov's 12 battalions 
in front line, Kamenski's 12 (temporarily commanded 
by Prince Cherbatov, Kamenski being ill) a verst to the 
rear, Lambert with the cavalry behind Cherbatov. 

In the night of the nth-i2th a Saxon detachment 
seized the Poddubno dyke. Tormazov apparently heard 
of this about 9 a.m. on the 12th and promptly sent 
Cherbatov with 10 battalions, 2 dragoon regiments and 
24 guns to Poddubno. This appeared temporarily to 
secure the left, but about noon Siegenthal arrived and 
threatened a direct attack, while Reynier, who had 


moved the bulk of his corps along the Cherechev road, 
debouched from the woods and menaced the Russian 
rear. Tormazov at first simply fronted Cherbatov to the 
left, leaving the guns and a single infantry regiment at 
Poddubno, and covered the new front with the fire of 24 
more guns brought up from the reserve. It soon, however, 
became evident that the turning movement was being 
executed by considerable forces, and that Cherbatov 
could not withstand it unaided. Tormazov thereupon 
called up Markov with 8 battalions to prolong Cherbatov's 
line, and Lambert with 4 battalions and 24 squadrons to 
cover the left flank. Lambert deployed across the 
Cherechev road, barring it against the farther advance of 
General Zechmeister with his Austrian cavalry and 
Saxon infantry. Schwarzenberg on his side, instead of 
attacking the weak detachment now before him at 
Gorodeczna, sent another infantry brigade and one of 
cavalry to the right, and himself proceeded thither. 

At 3 a.m. Frimont's Austrian cavalry and Trauten- 
berg's infantry at Gorodeczna were demonstrating 
against weak detachments, while nearly the whole 
Russian army had faced to the left and rear. Tormazov, 
considering that the extension of the hostile line afforded 
an opportunity for piercing it, developed a fierce attack 
by Cherbatov's infantry upon Sahr's Saxon brigade, 
which was driven back, barely saving its artillery from 
capture by the Russian dragoons. To extricate it 
General Bianchi led forward Lilienberg's brigade, while 
Schwarzenberg, now at Poddubno, ordered Hesse- 
Homburg's across the stream, and Siegenthal sent 
forward part of his division. By these combined efforts 
the advance of the Russians was brought to a stand and 
finally converted into a retreat. The brigades of Lilien- 
berg and Sahr moved forward together, Hesse-Homburg 
joining in on the left, Lecoq's Saxon division prolonging 
the line to the right, while Zechmeister, reinforced by 
Froelich's Austrian and Gablenz's Saxon cavalry, renewed 


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his attacks on Lambert. The latter had hitherto held his 
own with considerable success, but was now driven back 
and forced to seek shelter behind Markov's line. Night 
ended the conflict, and under cover of darkness Tormazov 
rallied his detachments and retreated on Kobrin, covered 
by a rear-guard, under Lambert. At Teveli, 7 miles 
from the battle-field, Chaplitz rejoined and took over 
rear-guard duty from Lambert. 

The Russian loss appears to have been about 3000 men 
out of a total of about 18,000 actively engaged : of these 
perhaps 500 were prisoners. That of the allies was 
probably a little less. Schwarzenberg estimated the loss 
of the Austrians at about 1300, of whom 865 were in 
Bianchi's division. Reynier only admitted 931 casualties. 

Tormazov did not stay his retreat at Kobrin, but 
continued on his way southward, intending to make for 
the Styr and stand on the defensive behind it. His 
resolution was undoubtedly wise. With Chaplitz' s and 
Khovanski's troops he had in hand 30,000 men, and 
might abide the chances of another battle. But his force 
was too small to rout Schwarzenberg' s, and a heavy 
defeat might leave Admiral Chichagov, who was at last 
on the way from Bukharest, too weak to face Napoleon's 
right wing. On the other hand, by retreating on Lutsk 
he would lessen the distance between himself and the 
Admiral, would be in closer communication with his base 
at Kiev and Sacken's reserves, and his position behind the 
marshy Styr might well induce the cautious Austrian 
general and his half-hearted or openly disaffected 
lieutenants to call a halt. 

On the 13 th there was some rear-guard fighting on the 
Kobrin road, but it was not serious, and Tormazov 
continued his retreat to Kovel, which he reached on the 
24th. There he apparently would have stood firm, but 
Schwarzenberg threatening to turn his left he abandoned 
his position and marched towards Lutsk, where he 
arrived on the 29th. Schwarzenberg' s pursuit was not 


very energetic, owing to scarcity of supplies and the 
difficulty of the Pinsk fenlands. 

Tormazov therefore found himself at the beginning of 
September in the same position which he had occupied 
five weeks before. His strategy had been far from fault- 
less : in particular his detachments previous to the battle 
of Gorodeczna seem to have been unnecessarily large. 
His tactics at Gorodeczna had been bad at the outset, 
however much his boldness and energy may have com- 
pensated for his earlier carelessness. Still, whatever his 
faults, he had inflicted a heavier loss than he had sus- 
tained, and had drawn upon himself, away from the 
main theatre of war, the whole of the Austrian auxiliary 
army and the 7th Corps, as well as Kosinski's Polish 
column from Zamosc. Moreover, Admiral Chichagov's 
advanced guard was only fourteen or fifteen marches 
away, and might be relied upon to join him by the 
middle of September. 

It has already been seen that when Barclay evacuated 
Drissa he had left Count Wittgenstein to cover the road 
to St. Petersburg. Wittgenstein had for his principal 
bases of operations the ancient towns of Pskov and 
Velikii Novgorod ; his advanced depot was Sebezh, 
some 60 miles from Polotsk, on the road to Pskov. In 
addition to his own 1st Corps he was given the bulk of 
the depot troops at Drissa and Dunaburg, and his artillery 
was strengthened by a heavy battery. The 18 reserve 
battalions hardly mustered 5700 bayonets, but the 15 
depot squadrons could furnish 1900 sabres and lances, 
and included those of the Imperial Guard, some of the 
finest in Europe. Wittgenstein's fighting strength, after 
the departure of Barclay, totalled some 29,000 men, of 
whom 4500 were cavalry and Cossacks, with 108 guns. 
Of this total 10 reserve battalions and 4 squadrons, about 
3700 strong, were at Dunaburg ; the rest were united 
under Wittgenstein's immediate command. 

The 1st Corps contained in its staff a considerable 


foreign element. Wittgenstein, his chief -of -staff, Major- 
General D'Auvray, and the Quartermaster-General 
Diebich, were all Germans. Wittgenstein himself was a 
man of no special talent, but active and energetic, and 
in the prime of life. D'Auvray was an older man, but 
possessed plenty of vigour, and was a good theoretical 
officer, though somewhat deficient in practical experience 
of warfare. Colonel Diebich, a Prussian, only twenty- 
seven years of age, was probably the most intellectually 
distinguished of the three. His enduring fame as 
"• Zabalkanski " — the Balkan-Passer — dates from the 
year 1829, when he commanded in chief against the 
Turks. For the present all that need be observed is that 
the command of the Russian army of the Diina was in 
vigorous hands. Clausewitz notes that D'Auvray, 
especially, could " lay about him " at need ; and doubt- 
less the process was often necessary in dealing with the 
gallant but amateurish and frequently indolent Russian 

From Dunaburg to Riga, a distance of some 130 miles, 
there were practically no Russian troops. In the great 
Baltic port and its neighbourhood there were 30 depot 
battalions, 8 squadrons, and some Cossacks and field 
artillery, which, with garrison troops, totalled perhaps 
14,000 men, sufficient to defend the fortifications and 
outlying places, but not to furnish any considerable 
detachment for the field. Riga was furthermore defended 
by Russian and English gunboats and bomb-brigs ; and 
naval assistance to almost any amount was available 
from the British Baltic fleet, should it be necessary. 
Riga was practically secure against any but a very large 
army. Its commander, Lieutenant-General Essen I, was 
an officer of no great ability, and in poor health. 

The Russian forces therefore available for the defence 
of Kurland and the line of the Diina amounted in all to 
perhaps 43,000 men, but could be reinforced to nearly 
double that number by militia and regulars, the latter 


partly depot troops, but chiefly belonging to Count 
Steingell's army of Finland, soon rendered disposable by 
the conclusion of peace with Sweden. 

Towards Riga Napoleon had directed the so-called 
10th Corps, under Marshal Macdonald. It had, in fact, 
as Macdonald complained, no proper corps organisation 
or administration ; and consisted of two distinct bodies 
— Grandjean's Polish and German division, formerly 
attached to the 1st Corps, and the bulk of the Prussian 
contingent under General Grawert. The operations of 
the corps were languid ; it certainly was not strong 
enough to besiege Riga ; and Napoleon paid curiously 
little attention to it. It would almost seem as if his real 
object in constituting it at the last moment was to have 
the notoriously disaffected Prussian contingent accom- 
panied and watched by a competent force of troops 
drawn from states which he regarded as devoted to 

The 10th Corps, having swept the right bank of the 
Niemen, concentrated on Rossieni, whence it set out on 
July 8th for Riga, Grawert advancing directly on the 
port by way of Mitau, while Grandjean's division, accom- 
panied by Macdonald, moved on the right. Before the 
30,000 or 32,000 men of the 10th Corps the Russian 
detachments in Kurland were helpless, and fell back at 
all points into Riga. By the 18th the invading forces 
were ranged along the Aa river, which passes by Mitau, 
the capital of Kurland, and, flowing nearly parallel to the 
Diina, enters the Baltic some 20 miles west of Duna- 
munde. Mitau, Bausk, and the other towns along the Aa 
were occupied, and the Prussians reached out with their 
left to the sea. Essen could form for field operations 
only a force of 8 depot battalions, 8 squadrons, >'a battery 
and some Cossacks — 4500 men at most, with 10 guns — 
which he sent under Lieutenant-General Lewis towards 
Bausk. Lewis was too late to defend Mitau or Bausk, and 
took up a defensive position at Eckau between the latter 


place and Riga. Against him Grawert advanced on 
July 19th with 7 battalions, 4 squadrons and 4 batteries 
— 5000 men and 32 guns. Lewis was beaten with a loss 
of over 600 prisoners besides killed and wounded, and 
driven back upon Riga. The Prussians moved up nearer 
to the city, and Essen, on July 22nd, losing his head, 
ordered the suburbs to be fired. There was absolutely no 
need for this reckless step. Macdonald had not a siege 
gun within reach. The misery and destitution occasioned 
were, of course, terrible ; the mere immediate material 
loss is said to have been valued at 15,000,000 paper 
rubles (about £600,000). 

Macdonald, after Eckau, moved with Grandjean's 
division towards Jakobstadt, and established his head- 
quarters there on the 22nd. His advance-guard of 4 
Polish battalions, under Prince Radziwil, moved down 
the left bank of the Duna on Dunaburg. Radziwil occu- 
pied the place on the 30th and 31st, the garrison having 
been withdrawn by Wittgenstein, and on August 8th 
Macdonald arrived with the rest of Grandjean's division. 
He blew up the half-finished fortifications, and destroyed 
all the artillery, ammunition and tools which he could 
not carry away. De Chambray blames him for this, 
saying that he should have retained them for the siege 
of Riga ; he also criticises him for not crossing the Duna 
and striking at Wittgenstein's communications. It seems, 
however, clear that Macdonald's appointed task was the 
siege of Riga; and he obviously could not undertake 
independent operations without Napoleon's order. His 
position, as he told Oudinot, was very difficult. His 
force was scattered over a wide extent of country, and 
in the absence of any proper staff he was burdened with 
petty details. 

On August 7th Essen made an attack on Schlock, the 
port at the mouth of the Aa, with 6 British and 13 
Russian sloops and gunboats, and about 1000 troops, all 
under General Lewis. Schlock was taken, but the light 


Commander of the 2nd French Army Corps 
From the painting by Robert Lefevrc at Versailles 

A. Rischgitz 


craft could not pass the Prussian batteries on the Aa, 
and Lewis abandoned Schlock and withdrew. 

Oudinot, after his fruitless attack on the bridge-head 
of Dunaburg on July 13th, moved up the left bank of the 
Diina to join in the general advance on Vitebsk. He 
also endeavoured to render the works at Drissa in- 
defensible. Wittgenstein, realising that Macdonald and 
Oudinot could not easily combine their operations, at 
first resolved to attack the 2nd Corps as it passed up 
the Diina ; but on receiving a report that Macdonald 
was bridging the river at Jakobstadt he took up a 
position near Razitzi (? Pazitzi), about 16 miles from 
Druia on the road to Sebezh, and awaited events. 

Oudinot, moving up the left bank of the Diina, left 
Merle's division, chiefly Swiss, and Corbineau's brigade 
of light cavalry to watch the river about Drissa, and 
with the rest of the 2nd Corps and Doumerc's Cuirassier 
division, occupied Polotsk on the 26th. On the 28th, 
leaving a battalion at Polotsk, he advanced on Sebezh to 
cut Wittgenstein's communications with St. Petersburg. 
He crossed the Drissa at Sivokhino and, early on the 30th, 
reached the hamlet of Kliastitzi, some 34 miles from 
Sebezh. As he was very badly informed as to Wittgen- 
stein's movements he decided to halt and send out 

Meanwhile Wittgenstein, informed of Oudinot 's 
advance, had determined to attack without delay. On 
the 30th he was within easy reach of Oudinot 's left flank ; 
and about four in the afternoon his advance-guard came 
into contact with Legrand's division at Jakubovo, about 
2 miles west of Kliastitzi, posted on a narrow front 
between two woods. 

Wittgenstein had with him the whole 1st Corps and 
6 depot battalions, in all about 21,000 men and 96 guns, 
organised into a vanguard, under Kulnev, 2 infantry 
divisions under Major-Generals Berg and Sazonov, and a 
mixed division commanded by Major-General Kakhovski. 


Kulnev, a fiery cavalry officer, at once attacked 
Legrand, sending to Wittgenstein for reinforcements. 
Legrand was posted between the woods on a front of 
apparently only 800 yards, half of which was occupied 
by the mansion and hamlet of Jakubovo. Verdier and 
Doumerc were on the main road, there being no room 
wherein to deploy. An obstinate action ensued as rein- 
forcements were thrown in on both sides and without 
any special success for either. Legrand's narrow front, 
though it enabled him to concentrate his infantry, only 
permitted him to bring into action twelve guns as against 
36 Russian pieces. On the 31st Wittgenstein, having 
collected his whole force, ordered a general attack. The 
fighting was very fierce. Jakubovo, defended by the 
26th Leger, was taken and retaken ; but on the whole 
the French held their own, and there was no sound 
reason for the retreat which Oudinot ordered. He says 
that he feared for the security of his left flank, threatened 
by an enemy twice as strong as himself ! This latter 
idea is scarcely in accordance with his confident advance 
upon Sebezh. At any rate, he evacuated Jakubovo and 
retreated across the Nitcha, southward to Sivokhino, 
pursued and harassed by the Russians who, not un- 
naturally, claimed the affair as a complete victory. 
Wittgenstein had actually engaged 18 battalions. He 
claimed to have taken 900 prisoners and much baggage, 
but the estimates of the French losses in the Journal of 
the 1st Corps are greatly exaggerated. The Russians, 
also, must have lost severely in the fierce fighting about 
the mansion of Jakubovo ; and Oudinot claimed 500 

At Sivokhino Oudinot was rejoined by Merle's division, 
coming from Drissa. He deliberately left the ford un- 
guarded ; and took up a position a little to the south- 
ward at the hamlet of Oboiarzina, with his flanks thrown 
forward and his whole force skilfully concealed in the 
woods and gullies with which the country abounded. 


At daybreak on the 1st of August the impetuous 
Kulnev was leading the pursuit. He had with him some 
companies of sharpshooters, 7 infantry battalions, 6 
squadrons and a horse battery, with which he crossed 
the ford and pushed forward into the sort of cul-de-sac 
formed by Oudinot's position to the southward. The 
Marshal had more than 40 guns ranged in a deep curve 
round the advancing Russian columns. As they opened 
fire Kulnev realised that something more serious than a 
mere rear-guard action was toward, and requested 
Sazonov, whose division was following, to support him. 
Sazonov sent forward the Tula Regiment and a heavy 
battery at once, but it was too late. The vanguard was 
overwhelmed by a furious cross cannonade, and broke 
before the charge of Verdier's and Legrand's infantry. 
The reinforcements were swept away in the rout ; and 
the Russians poured back through the ford in a wild 
crowd of struggling men and horses, amid which the 
French fire made terrible havoc. Kulnev strove desper- 
ately to repair the consequences of his fatal impetuosity, 
but in vain. He was following the retreat when a 
cannon-ball shattered both his legs, ending at once his 
despair and his life. He bade his aides carry away his 
orders and insignia — " lest these French triumph over a 
Russian general " ; and so passed a fiery and enthusiastic 
spirit who might have rendered his country good service. 

Verdier's division, driving before it the broken Russians, 
pressed through the ford in hot pursuit. Wittgenstein, 
who was advancing with his whole force, sent on Major- 
Generals Prince Iachvil and Helfreich to rally the van- 
guard, and took up a position at the hamlet of Golovitzi 
to sustain it, with 48 guns ranged before his line. Berg's 
division was on the right and Kosakovki's on the left. 
As soon as the remains of the vanguard had passed 
behind the batteries they opened a heavy cannonade, and 
Berg and Kozakovski moved forward to the attack. 
Wittgenstein's second line, under Sazonov, also moved 


forward, and as the leading divisions diverged somewhat 
in their advance some of its battalions filled up the gap 
thus opened. Verdier, assailed by a greatly superior 
force, was unable to bear up against it ; and was driven 
back, fighting hard but losing heavily, to Sivokhino, 
where he repassed the Drissa, covered by Legrand's 

The losses of the 2nd Corps from July 30th to August 1st 
amounted according to Oudinot 's returns (which appear 
trustworthy) to 464 officers and men killed, 2925 wounded, 
and 1596 prisoners and missing. This was certainly a 
gaping chasm in an effective strength of about 28,000 
men ; but the Russians admitted 4300 casualties, and 
again there was no solid reason for the French retreat 
upon Polotsk next day. Napoleon was greatly annoyed, 
and expressed his angry astonishment at the move- 
ment, which appeared to him entirely unnecessary. He 
ordered Oudinot to resume the offensive and, on August 
4th, directed St. Cyr, with the 6th Corps, to reinforce 

Wittgenstein on August 1st had been wounded, and had 
handed over the command to D'Auvray. The really 
indecisive nature of the fighting is shown by the fact 
that no attempt was made to pursue the French. On the 
contrary, D'Auvray withdrew by his right towards 
Dunaburg, in order to rally Hamen's detachment, which 
was now to join the 1st Corps. On August 7th he once 
more took position at Razitzi. He decided to cross the 
Duna and to destroy Macdonald's small force at Diina- 
burg ; and to this end was already bridging the river, 
when he was recalled by a fresh advance of Oudinot from 

St. Cyr, with the suffering remains of the Bavarian 
infantry and artillery — about 12,000 bayonets — reached 
Polotsk on August 7. Apart from his feeling that his 
troops were being sacrificed, he was angry at his sub- 
ordination to Oudinot. St. Cyr had, in truth, a far 


better right to the Marshal's baton, and nothing but 
Napoleon's dislike for him had hitherto deprived him 
of it. Oudinot, leaving the 6th Corps to follow, started 
westward from Polotsk with the 2nd on the 7th, and on 
the 9th reached Valeinzi, 8 miles from Drissa. Next day 
D'Auvray marched from Razitzi ; and on the 10th the 
Russian advance-guard, now under Helfreich, collided 
with Oudinot's advance, consisting of his light cavalry, 
supported by the nth Leger, at Svolna, a few miles 
north of Valeinzi. D'Auvray arrived with his main 
body on the nth. Expecting that Oudinot would 
advance in full force, he at first stood on the defensive, 
but, finding that the bulk of the 2nd Corps remained 
inactive at Valeinzi, attacked the advance-guard and 
drove it back. Thereupon, with curious timidity, Oudinot 
once more, on the 13th, retrograded to Polotsk, where 
he arrived on the morning of the 16th. On the 13th 
Hamen joined the Russian 1st Corps, and next day 
Wittgenstein resumed the command. 

Polotsk, a place of much importance in the struggles 
between Poland and Russia during the 15th and 16th 
centuries, lies on the right bank of the Duna, at the 
point where it is joined by the little river Polota. The 
country around was in 18 12 wooded to within a few 
miles of the town. Polotsk was traversed from north- 
west to south-east by the Riga-Vitebsk high-road, to 
which that from St. Petersburg united itself some miles 
out. From the south-west the Vilna road reached the 
town across the Duna. A fourth road left the Riga high- 
way on the right a little way from Polotsk, and ran north- 
eastwards to Nevel. 

The advance-guard of the Russians came in contact 
with the French outposts during the afternoon of the 16th, 
and the sound of the firing broke up a council-of-war 
which Oudinot had called to consider the situation. 

During the evening the French troops took up position. 
Oudinot's plan of action is difficult to understand. He 


left nearly the whole of Verdier's and Merle's divisions 
and the bulk of his cavalry on the left bank of the Diina. 
On the right bank, along the Polota, stood St. Cyr's weak 
corps, with its right at the village of Spas, about a mile 
from Polotsk. Wrede's division was in front line and 
Deroy in reserve. To the left of the Bavarians were 
Legrand's division, 1 regiment of Verdier's, and Corbineau's 
cavalry brigade. Oudinot's whole force was over 35,000 
strong, with about 130 guns. 

The Russian 1st Corps and the reserve troops attached 
to it — the latter now combined into regiments — totalled 
about 23,000 or 24,000 men and 99 guns. It was distri- 
buted in three mixed divisions, under Major-Generals 
Berg, Sazonov and Kakhovski, and two mixed brigades 
commanded respectively by Major-General Helfreich and 
Colonel Vlastov. 1 

Wittgenstein and his staff considered that Oudinot's 
position about Polotsk was too strong, defended as it 
was by superior forces, to be attacked, and decided to 
confine themselves to a vigorous demonstration upon 
Spas to cover the bridging of the Diina and a raid on 
Oudinot's communications. Early on the 17th, covered 
by Helfreich and Vlastov, the Russian main body 
debouched from the woods and deployed. The divisions 
as usual were broken up in the line of battle. In general, 
however, it may be said that Vlastov's detachment 
formed the extreme left opposite Spas, and thence Berg's 
division and Helfreich's vanguard continued the line to- 
wards the Diina. Sazonov and Kakhovski were in reserve. 

Vlastov, and part of Berg's division, under the general 
direction of Prince Iachvil, attacked Spas, which was 
gallantly defended by the Bavarians. To sustain the 
attack Wittgenstein was obliged to direct to the left the 
rest of Berg's division, replacing it by only two battalions 
of his second line. Oudinot thereupon ordered Legrand 
to attack the weakened Russian centre, but after some 

1 For Plan see Appendix. 


sharp fighting this was repelled by the advance of fresh 
battalions from Sazonov's division. Legrand renewed 
his attacks, but was again forced to retire, but to repulse 
him nearly the whole of Sazonov's division had to be 
employed. Around Spas a furious conflict raged all day, 
the Russian attacks being repelled time after time by a 
much smaller force of Bavarians. The outlook for 
Oudinot was entirely promising ; by night almost all 
Wittgenstein's army had been engaged and had been 
held at bay by the division of Legrand, about half of 
Wrede's and one regiment of Verdier's. All this time two 
strong divisions were inactive south of the Duna. It 
was probably fortunate that in the evening Oudinot was 
severely wounded and forced to transfer the command to 
the stronger hands of St. Cyr. 

The latter general made up his mind that the badly 
shaken morale of his army, no less than the Emperor's 
interests, imperatively demanded a victory, and deter- 
mined to give battle. But he was too wary to deprive 
himself of the advantage of allowing the Russians to waste 
their strength against his defensive position before himself 
taking the offensive. He therefore waited during the 
morning of the 18th for Wittgenstein to come on. The 
latter, on his side, having driven Oudinot again into 
Polotsk, decided to withdraw, his mission being to 
defend the St. Petersburg road, and greatly over- 
estimating the strength of the force opposed to him. 
His troops were to commence their march at 9 p.m. 

St. Cyr during the morning made a parade of retiring 
his trains and reserve parks through the town towards 
Vitebsk, while Merle and Verdier were brought nearer to 
it as though to cover an evacuation. Some of the cavalry 
also defiled along the southern bank of the Duna with 
their horses laden with forage. These devices do not 
appear to have tricked the Russian staff into the belief 
that Polotsk was about to be abandoned ; but they did 
give it the impression that there was no fear of an attack. 


The Russian army lay bivouacked in the order in which 
it had fought on the 17th, and head-quarters were at the 
hamlet of Prizmenitza, only half a mile from Spas. 

St. Cyr, finding that Wittgenstein did not show any 
sign of attacking, and doubtless marking the obvious 
unpreparedness of the Russians, decided to take the 
offensive. About 2 p.m. Verdier's division began to 
cross the Duna, screened from the sight of the Russians 
by the houses of Polotsk and the high banks of the 
Polota. Merle, Doumerc, and Castex's light cavalry 
followed. Meanwhile at Spas Deroy's division relieved 
Wrede's, and a battery of 31 guns was massed at the 

St. Cyr's plan, as he defines it, was to smash Wittgen- 
stein's line by a heavy and concentrated attack of four 
infantry divisions advancing at the double, Wrede's 
Bavarians leading on the right, Deroy to their left rear, 
Legrand and Verdier in echelon on the left of Deroy, 
while the cavalry followed in support, and Merle's 
division stood in reserve at Polotsk. St. Cyr in his 
report to Berthier says that he had intended to commence 
the attack at 4 p.m., but the bringing up of the troops 
from the left bank of the Duna proved a tedious opera- 
tion ; and it was not until nearly 5 that St. Cyr was able 
to give the signal to commence the battle. 

The French and Bavarian artillery opened a tremendous 
cannonade against the unsuspecting Russians, with great 
effect, especially among two batteries in advance of 
Prizmenitza, which lost nearly all their horses, and had 
a number of guns and waggons disabled or blown up; 
against the Bavarian artillery. Diebich skilfully placed 
some guns in a battery on the extreme Russian left, 
which, being masked, caused considerable loss, but could 
not silence the far stronger array of pieces ranged before 

For some reason which is not very apparent the 
infantry attack did not take place immediately. Possibly 


St. Cyr hoped that the fire of his 130 guns or thereabouts 
would soon demoralise the Russians, but he was deceived. 
Wittgenstein's troops fell quickly into their places in the 
line, and their artillery stoutly responded to the greatly 
superior mass of Franco-Bavarian batteries. 

After a cannonade of about an hour's duration, Wrede 
moved forward, threatening to turn the Russian left, 
while Deroy marched straight against Prizmenitza. 
Legrand's division, however, moved forward rather 
slowly, and Verdier's division (temporarily commanded 
by General of Brigade Valentin) was still farther to the 
rear. The result was that the Russian resistance was by 
no means crushed by the impetus of a combined charge. 
As the Bavarians advanced they screened the fire of 
their guns, and the Russian artillery was able to play 
heavily upon the infantry. Deroy, a venerable officer 
respected by all, was mortally wounded as he directed 
his division, and the Bavarians, shaken by their losses, 
began to give way. Legrand, now in line on their left, 
carried Prizmenitza, but was driven out again by Hamen 
with seven battalions of Sazonov's division. St. Cyr 
himself hastened to the front and directed a fresh advance 
of Legrand against Prizmenitza, supported by Sieben's 
brigade of Deroy 's division. Wrede was directed to 
assume the command of the whole 6th Corps, and him- 
self rallied and led on Deroy 's shaken troops. The four 
French and Bavarian infantry divisions, now supported 
by Merle on the left rear, moved forward together, 
breaking down the obstinate resistance of the Russians 
and forcing them back into the woods. The Russian 
cavalry charged repeatedly and brilliantly to cover the 
retreat of their infantry, and the combined Guard regi- 
ment created a panic in Corbineau's brigade, and rode 
almost up to the walls of Polotsk. St. Cyr himself, who 
had been slightly wounded on the 17th and was obliged to 
use a carriage, was nearly captured, and the daring 
horsemen were only checked by the fire of the reserve 


artillery. They were fired into from all sides, and 
charged by one of Doumerc's Cuirassier regiments, but 
the survivors regained the Russian line, sorely diminished 
in numbers, but covered with glory. The Russian army, 
badly defeated but by no means routed, made good its 
retreat during the night to Sivokhino, where it halted. 
St. Cyr did not pursue. He was not strong in light 
cavalry, and Corbineau's brigade was obviously de- 
moralised. Still it seems that more use might have been 
made of Merle's Swiss regiments, which had scarcely 
fired a shot ; several of Verdier's and Wrede's regiments 
also had not been heavily engaged. 

The losses on both sides had been very heavy. Wrede 
gave the Bavarian loss as 118 officers and 1161 men 
killed and wounded. That of the 2nd Corps, which had 
190 officers hors de combat, can hardly have been less 
than 3500. The Russians admitted a loss of 5000 killed 
and wounded. St. Cyr claimed 1000 prisoners ; and 14 
Russian guns were captured. 

On the French side General Deroy was mortally 
wounded. Oudinot, St. Cyr, Verdier and Wrede were 
wounded. Of the brigade leaders the Bavarian Sieben 
was killed, and two French and two Bavarians wounded. 
The Russians had Generals Berg, Kozakovski and Hamen 

Polotsk was hardly a very glorious victory, St. Cyr 
having some 35,000 men on the field against Wittgen- 
stein's 23,000 or 24,000 at most, but it had important 
results in freeing Napoleon from anxiety for his left flank. 
He showed his satisfaction by at last giving St. Cyr his 
Marshal's baton. 


THE battle of Lubino concluded the bloody 
fighting about Smolensk ; and, though there 
was practically no pause in the operations, it 
marked the term of another stage in the campaign, as 
poor in results as the preceding ones. At Vilna the 
Russians had deliberately refused to fight, and had 
withdrawn out of reach. At Vitebsk they had almost 
accepted the chance of battle, but then, on better infor- 
mation, had slipped out of their great opponent's closing 
grasp in the nick of time. At Smolensk it seemed that 
the desired great battle would at last be delivered and 
elusive victory crown the eagles of Napoleon. Whatever 
be thought of the wisdom of the Emperor's manoeuvres, 
they had been admirably carried out, and his troops 
had fought splendidly. Yet the results of the great 
effort had been completely negative. The Russian army 
had wrought its way out of the great conqueror's clutches, 
and had inflicted decidedly more damage that it had 
itself received. A few guns, a few prisoners and a ruined 
and nearly deserted city — these constituted the poor 
reward of so much skill and courage. 

It may be regarded as certain that Napoleon had 
originally intended to conclude the campaign of 1812 
at Smolensk. When he first began to contemplate a 
change of plan cannot be determined, but it is possible 
that it was at a comparatively early period of the cam- 
paign. The elusive strategy of his opponents cannot 
but have kept before his eyes the probability either of 



being forced to extend the area of his operations, or of 
taking up winter-quarters with his self-imposed task 
unfinished. Jomini points out that the fact that he did 
not then disclose his purpose may merely indicate that 
he wished to encourage his weary troops by the prospect 
of a speedy end of their toils. On the other hand, it is 
highly probable that his decision was not formed until 
after the battle of Smolensk. The absolutely negative 
results of that engagement forced him to consider the 
necessity of pushing on to strike a crushing blow. Had 
he succeeded in disorganising the main Russian army 
by a heavy defeat he would probably have stayed his 
advance, and devoted the rest of the campaigning season 
to solidly organising his communications, and crushing 
Tormazov and Wittgenstein. 

So much for the time at which Napoleon decided to 
continue his advance. His reasons fall under three 
headings — military, political and personal. 

Napoleon played many parts on the stage of history, 
but he was in the first instance and before everything a 
soldier. Military reasons may therefore justly take 
priority of place. Since crossing the frontier in June 
he had kept steadily before him the crushing of the 
principal forces of Russia in a great battle. This purpose 
he had failed to effect. The Russian armies were yet 
unbroken, and had suffered, relatively to their numbers, 
less heavily than their opponents. They were retiring 
upon their resources, and, slow and difficult as was the 
organisation of reinforcements, the Russian national 
spirit was thoroughly roused, and the vanguard of the 
new levies was beginning to reach the fighting line. 
But for the moment this fighting line was much weaker 
than the forces immediately under Napoleon's command, 
and would probably succumb to them in a pitched battle. 
Were it allowed to manoeuvre rearwards, and rally and 
assimilate the new levies which were being collected 
and drilled, the chances of Napoleon's success would be 


greatly diminished. His lines of communication were 
already troubled by Cossacks, and time would mean the 
increase of these vexatious irregulars both in numbers 
and efficiency, thus compelling larger detachments and 
weakening the striking force upon which everything really 
depended. It was practically certain that the elusive 
Russians would never abandon " White- Walled Moscow " 
without a battle, and it was necessary to go forward to 
seek it while the striking force was yet strong enough to 
deal a decisive blow. It would also appear that the 
halt on the Diina and Dnieper had permitted the accumu- 
lation of supplies sufficient to subsist the army as far as 
Moscow, at any rate with the addition of what might be 
obtained by foraging. 1 Finally, the victory of Schwarzen- 
berg at Gorodeczna on August 12th, and that of St. Cyr 
over Wittgenstein at Polotsk on the 17th and 18th, 
appeared to assure the immediate security of Napoleon's 

Political reasons also must have weighed much with 
Napoleon. The continuance of his empire, as he himself 
probably understood better than anyone, depended upon 
continued military success. His own position rested 
almost solely upon the force of his own personality. To 
remain for several months, perhaps a year, away from 
France might lead to his downfall. Moreover, whatever 
the dynasts might say or do, Germany was full of dis- 
content ; and in his absence revolt might break out in 
his rear. To confess failure by a retreat was not to be 
contemplated. In short, there was practically no alter- 
native to an advance. 

To the influence exercised by sound military and 
political argument must be added that of Napoleon's 
personality. He had never yet experienced failure so 
far as his own personal enterprises had been concerned, 

1 This is not absolutely certain, but appears to be proved by the statements 
of L'yewitnesses of the campaign. De Fezensac, for example, says that the 
3rd Corps had not yet exhausted its supplies when it entered Moscow. 


and exasperated as he was by the lack of success, up to 
the present, of the campaign, every prompting of his 
fierce and impetuous nature impelled him to go forward. 

On the other hand, the Russians — in so far as there 
was any public opinion in Russia — were by no means 
contented with the progress of the campaign. Alexander, 
before leaving the army, had issued two proclamations, 
one to the people at large, the other to the city of Moscow, 
calling upon the nation to make great efforts to expel 
the invaders. He then hastened to Moscow, where, on 
July 27th, an assembly of nobles and merchants was 
convoked under the presidency of the Governor-General, 
Count Rostopchin. The nobles offered for war a levy 
of one man in ten from the population of their estates. 
The merchants volunteered a contribution by an assess- 
ment upon the capital of each ; and a special subscrip- 
tion opened on the spot realised in an hour nearly 
£200,000. In the midst of these enthusiastic proceedings 
the Tzar entered the assembly, and ended a speech, in 
which he set forth the national peril, by a declaration 
that he intended to continue the struggle until the bitter 

Alexander wisely restricted the new levies to provinces 
which were not yet the seat of war. He also decided that 
a proportion of 2 per cent, generally, and 1 per cent, in 
Siberia, would be sufficient. Men were not lacking, 
but arms and equipment were deficient, so also were 
officers capable of organising and training the new 
recruits. The collection of the levies was an operation 
requiring much time and trouble : it was even more 
difficult to realise the money contribution, part of which 
was not finally received until the following year. But 
considering the vast extent and poverty of the empire the 
immediate results were exceedingly creditable. We shall 
soon have occasion to note the rapid strengthening of the 
Russian army. 

With all this enthusiasm and patriotic endeavour 


there was not unnaturally mingled a good deal of distrust 
and discontent among the nobles, who voiced such 
public opinion as existed. These feelings were justified 
to a great extent by the foolishness of the Government, 
which reported non-existent military successes, and 
misrepresented the operations which were in progress. 
A certain amount of reliable news, however, filtered 
through from the front. It gradually became clear that, 
despite the so-called successes of the Russians, the 
armies were steadily retreating, and that cities and 
provinces were being abandoned to the invader. 

The general results of all this was a more or less openly 
expressed desire that the conduct of the war should be 
changed. To a certain extent it was the outcome of 
genuine conviction that the command might be in better 
hands, but it was also largely the reflection of the insub- 
ordinate discontent among the army officers, which had 
reached its height at Smolensk. The outcry was chiefly 
against Barclay, whose foreign name was made the 
platform for every kind of unjust accusation. It appears 
to have chiefly been the sentiments of Bagration and his 
adherents which made themselves heard in the capital. 
Barclay had few friends — Lowenstern says that Konov- 
nitzin was almost the only general officer attached to 
him — and had neither leisure nor talents for defending 
his reputation against intriguers. Alexander apparently 
always trusted and liked him ; but on the abandonment 
of the offensive early in August the clamour became so 
loud that he was constrained to give way, though he 
angrily declared that he would not assume responsibility 
for any evil consequences. He appointed a committee 
consisting of Arakcheiev, the Vice- Chancellor Count 
Kotschubey, and Prince Lopukhin, to consider the 
question of a different conduct of the war. The action 
was probably merely nominal, for both the remedy and 
the man to apply it had been practically agreed upon. 
The committee met on the 17th of August. It recom- 


mended the appointment of a commander-in-chief of all 
the Russian field armies, and for the post submitted to 
the Tzar the name of General Prince Golenischev- 

There were practically only two condidates for the 
onerous position. One was Kutuzov. The other was 
Bennigsen, who in his own estimation was fully equal 
to the responsibility. Others, however, did not think so 
highly of his merits, or of those of his campaign of 1807 
against Napoleon. Alexander knew him as one of his 
father's assassins, and probably distrusted his vain 
and selfish character. Besides, he was a foreigner. 
Kutuzov's military reputation was estimated as highly 
as Bennigsen's ; his laurels were recent ; and, above all, 
he was a native Russian, popular with the army and 
believed to be the exponent of the hard-fighting tactics 
of far-famed Suvorov. 

On the 1 8th Alexander nominated Kutuzov to the 
position of commander-in-chief. Bennigsen was appointed 
chief-of-staff. The reasons are somewhat obscure. 
Clausewitz considers that Bennigsen procured his ap- 
pointment in the hopes of succeeding to Kutuzov's 
place if, as seemed not unlikely, the old man's health 
should break down. Bennigsen himself says that, at 
Vilna, Barclay informed him that Alexander wished to 
employ him again. It is possible that Alexander appointed 
him in view of such a contingency as Clausewitz suggests ; 
certainly he was senior to all the generals with the army, 
so that, in the event of Kutuzov's retirement, he would 
naturally assume the command. He seems to have 
regarded himself rather as his chief's colleague than his 
assistant. Kutuzov did not take his appointment very 
kindly, and the yoking together of the two veterans, one 
a Russian noble and the other a German soldier of for- 
tune, was not a happy expedient. 

While at Smolensk, Napoleon regulated his main line 
of communications, which was now to run by Vilna, 


Minsk, Borisov and Orsha, to Smolensk. Smolensk 
became the advanced depot of the army, and Vitebsk 
being of only secondary importance, Charpentier was 
transferred to the former place with the greater part of 
his garrison. Winzingerode, however, was so active in 
the neighbourhood of Vitebsk that on the 21st Napoleon 
detached Pino's Italian division thither to support 
Pajol. The alarm was a false one, for Winzingerode 
had, as we know, only a weak detachment of cavalry. 
On receiving intelligence of the retreat of the Russian 
main army he fell back towards Moscow, and Napoleon 
called Pino, Pajol and Guy on towards him, but only the 
cavalry were able to rejoin in time for the battle of 

Orders were given to construct bakeries at Smolensk, 
and to form magazines and hospitals. The city, however, 
was little better than a heap of ruins. Nearly all the 
inhabitants had fled, and artificers and materials were 
lacking to carry out the works ordered by Napoleon. It 
is a favourite saying of the Emperor's apologists that 
his orders were neglected. The truth is that they were 
too frequently impracticable. The hospitals, choked 
with some 15,000 sick and wounded, were in a frightful 
condition. So great was the dearth of supplies that the 
parchment of the city archives and gun-waddings were 
utilised for bandages. 

Nor was the condition of the army at large satisfactory. 
Food was for the moment sufficient ; but clothing and 
equipment were already wearing out. Nansouty declared 
that he had never seen cavalry in so wretched a condition 
as his own 1st Corps ; there were Cuirassiers half naked. 
The number of broken-down horses was alarmingly large. 
Discipline was worse than ever. Napoleon declared in 
a moment of depression that two-thirds of the army were 
stragglers. There was small prospect of these evils 
being remedied. The army, having made an all too brief 
halt about Vitebsk and Orsha, and a yet briefer one at 


Smolensk, was about to be pushed forward for another 
250 miles. Napoleon had, in a sense, provided for every- 
thing ; that is, he had issued orders which anticipated 
most contingencies. But De Fezensac, himself a soldier 
of merit, puts his finger on the weak point of the elaborate 
arrangements, and sums up the situation in a single 
damning paragraph : " Mais il ne sufht pas de donner 
des ordres, il faut que ces ordres soient executables ; et 
avec la rapidite des mouvements, la concentration des 
troupes sur un meme point, le mauvais etat des chemins, 
la difficulte de nourrir les chevaux, comment aurait-il 
ete possible de faire des destributions regulieres et 
d' organiser convenablement le service des hopitaux ? " 
The army swept the country through which it was 
moving clear in a few hours ; it became literally and 
without exaggeration a wilderness. Stores of every 
kind were being poured into Vilna and pushed forward 
with all diligence to Minsk and Smolensk, but bad roads, 
lack of horses and sometimes mismanagement delayed 
the advance of the convoys. The main army, for whose 
benefit they were intended, was constantly moving 
forward, and they could never attain it. When on October 
19th, Napoleon turned back from Moscow his nearest 
considerable magazine was at Smolensk, and it contained 
only six or seven days' supplies. 

There was depression and growing discontent among 
the generals. Napoleon noticed it and made angry 
and bitter comments thereupon. Ney alone seems to 
have been undaunted. Just after Lubino he wrote to 
the Emperor suggesting that an attempt should be made 
to overtake the Russians by three or four forced marches. 

In the rear also events were far from answering to 
Napoleon's expectations. He complained bitterly that 
Lithuania did nothing. It was to some extent true. 
Lithuania was a poor country ; it had been wasted by 
the passage across it of the bulk of the Grande Armee, 
and it could furnish practically no supplies. The levies 


ordered by the provisional government existed largely 
upon paper, and the troops actually enrolled were of very 
poor quality. Had Napoleon frankly re-established the 
Kingdom of Poland better results might have been 
obtained, but it is not very probable. It is impossible, 
after reading his minute directions to De Pradt, his agent 
at Warsaw, and his ambiguous replies to the Polish 
deputies who waited upon him at Vilna, not to perceive 
that he was deliberately trading upon the hopes and 
enthusiasm of the Poles. Moreover, he had on entering 
Lithuania committed a blunder by proclaiming liberty 
to everyone. The serfs naturally interpreted this as 
granting permission for plunder and general licence. The 
nobles, whom Napoleon should certainly, from the point 
of view of his own interests, have conciliated, were 
alienated, as were the Jews, who practically monopolised 
such trade and industry as existed. At best it can 
scarcely be said that Lithuania was actively favourable 
to Napoleon. It was necessary to garrison the principal 
towns and to escort all convoys as if the country had 
been hostile instead of nominally friendly. For all 
practical purposes Napoleon's base continued to be on 
the Niemen and Vistula, and supplies had to be brought 
up thence. 

On the 20th of August, apparently, Napoleon finally 
made up his mind to continue his advance, and on the 
21st and 22nd the army was set in motion. Ney's 
shattered corps could no longer fulfil the duties of support 
to the advanced guard, and Davout's took its place. 
Murat led the way with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Corps of 
Cavalry, and the light horse of the 1st and 3rd Army 
Corps. Behind Murat marched the 1st Corps, with 
Compans' division leading ; the 3rd and 8th Corps and 
the Imperial Guard followed. The 4th Corps formed the 
left flank-guard ; the 5th and Latour-Maubourg's Corps 
(less three Polish regiments left on the Dnieper) that on 
the right. On the 23rd intelligence arrived that the 


Russians had taken up a position for battle near Dorogo- 
buzh, 22 miles east of Solovievo. Eugene and Poniatowski 
were drawn in towards the centre and the muster-rolls 
called. They showed an effective strength of 147,000 
men, of whom 31,000 were cavalry, with nearly 590 guns 
— exclusive of the head-quarters troops. 

On leaving Lubino Barclay had sent forward Toll to 
look for a favourable field of battle. While the First 
Army was marching to Solovievo, Bagration moved on 
towards Dorogobuzh. Toll, who was accompanied by 
Clausewitz, found a position, which he considered satis- 
factory, about 5 miles west of the town, behind the small 
river Uzha, which here flowed into the Dnieper from the 
south. It was open in front, giving free play to the 
action of the powerful Russian artillery, and woods 
behind afforded cover for reserves. On the right, however, 
a hill beyond the Uzha commanded part of the main 
position, and thus appeared to Barclay and Bagration, 
who met to confer, a cardinal defect. Barclay, whose 
temper had probably scarcely been softened by persecu- 
tion, blamed Toll, and the latter, always gruff to the 
verge of rudeness, growled a reply to the effect that he 
could not make positions — if they were not to be found 
that was the fault of the country. Barclay, recognising 
that there was reason in the answer, if little courtesy, 
refrained from an angry reply ; but Bagration was 
furious, and his natural generosity impelled him to 
praise the very man whom he had recklessly assailed. 

" If you cannot choose positions," he told the luckless 
young Quartermaster-General, " that is not to say that 
others cannot ! How dare you, you unlicked cub, 
address the commander-in-chief so ? He owes his 
position to his great qualities, and deserves every con- 
sideration. I am his senior, but I set the example by 
serving under him. You and your blue riband ! (Toll 
was a Knight of St. Andrew.) You think that you honour 
him by serving under him ; but it is the other way about. 


It is disgraceful that a young swelled-head like you 
should hold such language towards the man on whom 
depends the fate of the army and the empire. Thank his 
generosity that worse does not befall you, for if I had my 
way I would change that blue riband for a common 
soldier's belts ! " 

The threat was by no means an empty one, for a 
Russian commander-in-chief had power to degrade 
officers to the ranks. Bagration's words certainly afford 
food for reflection, seeing his remarks of a few days since, 
but it is good to know that one of the last actions of his 
honourable life was to endeavour to make some amends 
to his ill-used colleague. 

The position being deemed unfavourable, Bagration 
suggested another in front of Dorogobuzh. Clausewitz 
describes this— perhaps partly out of pique — as very 
bad. It at any rate appears that it was intersected by 
the Dneiper, though the river was not here a very 
formidable obstacle. 

The rear-guard, under Platov, consisting of 3 regiments 
of Hussars, 1 of Lancers, 6 of Chasseurs and some Cossacks, 
had on the 22nd a brisk action with Murat, rejoining the 
main army on the 23rd. On the same day Napoleon 
himself left Smolensk, and Eugene and Poniatowski were 
called in. Poniatowski's march to the south of the road 
indicated an intention to turn the Russian left ; and 
Bagration counselled a retreat. It seems obvious that 
he had at last definitely ranged himself on the side of 
Barclay. His example may have served to improve the 
sense of subordination among the other generals. It had 
fallen so low that Platov personally insulted Barclay a 
few days after the evacuation of Smolensk. The position 
was evacuated in the night of the 23rd-24th and the 
retreat continued, the main body retiring to Brazhino 
on the Moscow road, Baggohufwudt and Uvarov pro- 
ceeding level with it on the north bank of the Dnieper. 
The rear-guard fell back to Dorogobuzh. 


Barclay's resolution to give battle before Dorogobuzh 
was bold to the verge of rashness. His entire strength 
was probably not more than 107,000 men, of whom 
3000 were raw militiamen from the province of 
Smolensk, and certainly neither of the positions in 
advance of the town was strong enough to compen- 
sate for a numerical inferiority of 40,000 men. It 
almost appears as if he had grown desperate at the 
persecution to which he was subjected, and had re- 
solved to stake everything on a single throw of the 

On the 27th the two armies reached Viasma. Napoleon 
on the same day was at Slavkovo, about 27 miles west- 
ward. There was a rear-guard fight between Murat and 
Platov, as the result of which the latter, to avoid being 
turned, retired to Semlevo, nearer Viasma. Platov, 
being indisposed, was succeeded by Konovnitzin. On 
the 28th Napoleon entered Semlevo ; and on the 29th 
Barclay and Bagration reached Tzarevo-Zaimichi. On 
the same day General Miloradovich was at Gzhatsk with 
14,466 infantry and n 23 cavalry — depot troops, con- 
valescents and recruits. Barclay and Bagration now 
decided that with this reserve force within reach, they 
might safely stand to fight, and took up a position. It 
appears to have been fairly strong in the centre, but, like 
most positions in Central Russia, its flanks were exposed. 
This weakness the generals proposed to remedy by 
entrenchments. In the evening Kutuzov arrived and 
assumed the supreme command. 

Kutuzov decided not to give battle in the Tzarevo- 
Zaimichi position. The decision was a perfectly sensible 
one. The responsibility was now his, and he as yet 
knew nothing of his army. He would naturally desire 
to become better acquainted with it, and as it was still 
some 130 miles from Moscow he might hope to find a 
stronger position. Toll and his staff were sent on ahead, 
and the army resumed its retreat, Konovnitzin with a 

Ataman of the Don Cossacks 

A. Rische-itz 


force now augmented to 26 battalions and 72 squadrons 
covering the rear. 

Meanwhile the French were doggedly following, 
suffering much from fatigue and heat, and troubled, as 
usual, by internal dissensions. Davout accused Murat, 
apparently with great justice, of wasting the cavalry, 
and exhausting them by useless manoeuvres and lack of 
proper care for their subsistence. He said that it wrung 
his heart — not a very tender organ — to see the wretched 
state of the reserve cavalry divisions, and declared that 
he would not allow his infantry to be so overworked. 
Matters came to a head on August 28th in an open quarrel 
between the two leaders in Napoleon's presence. Murat 
retorted to Davout' s accusation by a counter-charge of 
over-caution, and declared that they had better settle 
their differences by a duel ! Napoleon rather added 
fuel to the flames, for he insinuated that had Murat been 
in Davout' s place in July he might have intercepted 
Bagration. Davout was also on bad terms with Berthier. 
There is no discovering the real cause of this, but it is 
certain that Davout' s fierce temper and rough manners 
made him many enemies. 

The march of the army was toilsome. The wide road 
was occupied by the artillery and trains, five or six 
vehicles abreast, while along both sides tramped the 
infantry in heavy columns of companies or " divisions." 
They suffered much from heat, which was aggravated by 
the dense clouds of dust raised by the marching columns ; 
and the supply of water was scanty. Even the Russians 
occasionally felt the want of it, and it was naturally 
worse for the French, who found the wells drunk dry and 
the streams trodden into mud. At the same time it does 
not appear that the diminution in the ranks owing to 
these causes was exceptional, though it was certainly 
serious. The worst losses were among the horses, which 
suffered at once from lack of proper forage and from 
thirst. Corn and hay became more and more difficult to 


procure, and the rations of the unfortunate animals were 
made up with rye straw. The wastage among them was 
all the more serious because there was little hope of being 
able to replace them. 

The villages along the route, and the few small towns, 
were for the most part deserted by their inhabitants, and 
in part at least destroyed. This was not invariably the 
case. Dorogobuzh — " Cabbage-town," as the French 
soldiers called it from the cabbage fields amid which it 
lay — was uninjured, and three months later still con- 
tained some of its inhabitants. Gzhatsk also was un- 
injured. Viasma was partly destroyed, owing to fire 
spreading from a depot of flour and spirits which the 
Russians had fired before retreating. Otherwise it is 
difficult to decide whether the destruction of houses and 
villages was due to French or Russians. It may be 
attributed to both at various times according to circum- 

The Russians retired eastward through Gzhatsk, covered 
by their powerful rear-guard. On September 1 they were 
about Kolotskoi, a great monastery about 75 miles from 
Moscow, the rear-guard being a day's march behind. 
At Kolotskoi Toll and Vistitski II, Bagration's Quarter- 
master-General, recommended a defensive position at 
Borodino, a few miles farther on — probably in despair of 
being able to find anything better between it and Moscow. 
Napoleon either learned on the same day that the 
Russians had definitely turned to bay, or inferred that 
they were about to do so, for he stayed his advance at 
Gzhatsk in order to rally his forces for the impending 
struggle. The musters for the 2nd of September, including 
men temporarily detached or straggling who might rejoin 
within two or three days, and exclusive of head-quarter 
troops, showed nearly 135,000 sabres and bayonets. 
Two battalions of the 8th Corps were garrisoning Dorogo- 
buzh and Viasma. Before the battle Napoleon was 
rejoined by Pajol's division and by the 1st and 12th 


Light Cavalry Brigades — nearly 4000 sabres in all. For 
the head-quarters troops 3000 is a conservative estimate. 

Napoleon made great efforts at this time to grapple 
with the disorder in his rear, and especially to reduce the 
vast trains of vehicles which impeded the march. There 
is abundant evidence that they were out of all proportion 
to the strength of the army, and the superfluity consisted 
chiefly of private carriages. Napoleon's efforts produced 
little effect. He issued stringent orders, and himself 
directed the firing of some vehicles ; but Baron Girod 
tells of at least one instance in which the fire was ex- 
tinguished as soon as the Emperor's back was turned, 
and in general the order remained a dead letter. 

During the halt there was a good deal of rain, which 
did not improve the indifferent roads, but relieved the 
distress for water. The 4th, however, was fine, and early 
in the morning the French army resumed its advance. 
The order was as before, but, to Davout's disgust, 
Compans' division was placed under Murat's direct 
orders. A provisional battalion of the Vistula Legion 
was left to garrison Gzhatsk. Konovnitzin made a stand at 
Gridnevo, about half-way to Borodino, withdrawing 
when Murat's infantry turned his flank, his cavalry 
skirmishing steadily with the leading French squadrons. 
On the 5th he made another stand at Kolotskoi*, and it 
was not until he saw Eugene's corps marching past his 
right flank that he fell back into the main army behind 
the Kolotza. 

The Borodino position has often been spoken of as an 
admirable one for defence. Clausewitz, who knew it, is 
of a very different opinion ; and in all probability it was 
selected simply because there was no likelihood that 
anything better would present itself in the endless plain- 
lands. It had one grave strategic defect. Some way to 
the west the great road forks, the branches uniting again 
at Mozhaisk, about 6 miles east of Borodino. It was there- 
fore necessary to hold two roads instead of one, and to be 


strong on both. At Borodino they are 2 J miles apart, 
the new road, on which Borodino stands, lying to the 

The Kolotza rivulet makes a very acute angle with the 
new road, running for a considerable distance nearly 
parallel with it, always in a gully with steep banks. 
After passing Borodino, which lies on its left bank, it 
flows north-eastward with a very sinuous course to join 
the Moskva, about 2| miles farther on. The Moskva 
itself flows south-eastward to the high-road at the village 
of Uspenskoie, three miles from Borodino, where it turns 
eastward towards Mozhaisk. 

In the angle formed by the two streams lies a low 
partly wooded plateau, its base formed by a rivulet which 
joins the Kolotza at Borodino. At its south-western 
angle stood the hamlet of Gorki, about a mile from Boro- 
dino. A few hundred yards higher up another streamlet 
joined the Kolotza from the south-east. This streamlet, 
called after the hamlet of Semenovskoi, about a mile 
and a quarter south of Borodino, flows in a little ravine, 
and the ground between it and the Gorki rivulet forms 
another low plateau, not more than 30 feet high, but 
with a fairly steep western drop. It descends very slightly 
towards the east for about a mile, until it is crossed by 
another brook flowing in a gully. The eastern bank of 
this gully is the higher, and the ground extends eastward 
in another low plateau on which lies the village of Tzarevo, 
a mile and a half east of Semenovskoi. Just west of 
Gorki there is a low knoll, and another a mile due south- 
east of Gorki, and about 1100 yards north of Semenovskoi. 
From Semenovskoi to the old road at the village of 
Utitza is about a mile and a quarter, and from the latter 
village extended northward for about 1000 yards a 
thick wood. Three-quarters of a mile east of Utitza is 
a knoll, and a little eastward again another low plateau. 
South of the old road extended marshy woods, though a 
little south of Utitza there was a clearing round the hamlet 


of Michino. Patches of wood were scattered over the 
whole position. The villages were all log-built and 
useless for defence. From Utitza by Borodino to the 
junction of the Kolotza with the Moskva is a distance of 
almost 5 miles. 

To the west of the Borodino-Utitza line the country is 
of the same character, only slightly lower. At the village 
of Shevardino, a mile westward from Semenovskoi, is a 
low knoll. The villages were of so little consequence 
that it is superfluous to name them. 

It will probably be gathered from this description that 
the general position afforded no great advantages to 
the weaker side. Clausewitz, indeed, says that in places 
it was difficult to tell which had the advantage of the 
ground. The northern plateau was fairly advantageous 
for defence, but the Kolotza ravine in its front prevented 
the troops posted on it from making counter-attacks. 
The old road afforded opportunities to an enterprising 
foe of a turning movement. It was therefore necessary 
to hold it strongly, but the wood south of Semenovskoi 
almost cut the troops about Utitza from the main line 
farther north. Bennigsen criticises the whole position 
most bitterly, as far too extended, but represents it as 
being 2 miles longer than it really was. He was himself 
an advocate of very narrow positions, and French critics 
declared that his line at Eylau was far too close and 
heavy. He says in his memoirs that he perfectly under- 
stood that Napoleon's concentrated attacks could only 
be repulsed by a concentration of defence. In principle 
he was no doubt right, but the defensive concentration, as 
Wellington had been teaching an unappreciative Europe 
for years, should have been one of effective muskets, not 
of crowded columns. Bennigsen was too self-satisfied 
to see this ; but it is perhaps fair to add that probably 
the British army was the only one in Europe sufficiently 
highly trained to execute linear tactics. The Russian 
soldiers were extremely steady and accurate in manoeuvre, 


but not rapid, and scarcely highly trained ; French 
observers criticise their clumsiness. Clausewitz thinks 
that the reserves were too near the front. The bulk of 
the army was massed on a front of four miles ; both 
flanks were covered by Cossacks. 

The Kolotza entered the Moskva amid marshy 
ground ; the right was accordingly supported on a wood 
a mile and a half further south. In front of this and on 
its left towards Gorki were various field works. In front 
of Gorki was a parapet with redans, and on the knoll 
south of Borodino a large earthwork, called by the 
French the " Great Redoubt." Semenovskoi had been 
destroyed, the houses being mere shell traps. At its 
western end a parapet had been marked out, and to the 
south three fleches or redans. The Gorki work, the 
Great Redoubt and the Semenovskoi redans were 
the only entrenchments at all complete, and they were 
very hastily finished and of poor profile. Engineers 
and sappers were few in the Russian army, and tools 
seem to have been lacking. 

The strength of the army gathered to defend this 
very mediocre position cannot be exactly estimated. 
Russian figures vary, and none seem to be accurate in 
details. Bogdanovich, for example, reckons 14,500 
artillery and sappers present, which, allowing for 1000 
of the latter, gives an average of 250 per battery — 
more than in June ! 

The only very certain fact about the Russian strength 
is that when the army reached Gzhatsk it cannot have 
contained much over 100,000 men, of whom 3000 were 
militia and 7000 Cossacks. Miloradovich's 15,500 men were 
drafted into the regiments, presumably with a view to 
bringing them up as far as possible to equal strength. 
On the 4th the army was joined by 7000 militia from 
Moscow under Count Markov, the vanguard of the great 
national levy. The total may be fairly estimated at 
nearly 125,000 men. The militia were absolutely raw 


troops ; some of them were merely employed on police 
and fatigue duties. There were over 17,000 excellent 
regular cavalry, 7000 Cossacks, and 640 guns and howit- 
zers, admirably appointed and horsed. 

Napoleon had left perhaps 700 men in Gzhatsk, and 
allowing 1000 men for casualties at Gridnevo and Kolot- 
skoi, and 2000 for stragglers or men who failed to rejoin, 
he had still over 131,000 men on the 5th of September, 
exclusive of the head-quarters guard, at least 3000 men, 
who must be counted as present no less than the Russian 
militia. Between the 5th and 7th the army was rein- 
forced by 4000 cavalry, giving a total of 138,000 men 
available. There were about 32,000 cavalry, but their 
superiority in numbers hardly compensated for the 
inferior condition of the horses. The weight of metal 
thrown by the 584 guns was slightly superior to that 
projected by the 640 opposing pieces ; and the former 
— with the exception of the regimental artillery — were 
undoubtedly more efficiently served, but here also the 
horses were in poor condition. 

After the fight at Kolotskoi the French moved forward, 
— the main column by the new road, Eugene to the left 
rear, Poniatowski by the old road on the right — Konov- 
nitzin and his troops retiring steadily before them. 
The Russian army was not yet definitely ranged for 
battle, the direction of Napoleon's attack being still 
uncertain. Barclay, with the 2nd, 4th and 6th Corps, 
was behind Borodino, Bagration about Semenovskoi 
with an advanced guard, under his second in command 
Prince Gorchakov, at Shevardino, where a redoubt had 
been thrown up and armed with 12 heavy guns. Gorcha- 
kov's force comprised the 27th Division, Sievers' cavalry 
corps, the 2nd Cuirassier Division, and a light infantry 
regiment from the 2nd Corps. The 3rd and 5th Corps, 
with the militia, were for the present held in reserve. 

It was not until 3 p.m. that Konovnitzin retired from 
Kolotskoi, and probably not before 5 that Murat attacked 


Gorchakov. The 3rd Chasseurs were ejected from the 
hamlet of Doronimo by the 61 st Regiment, which marched 
at the head of Compans' division ; and the French infan- 
try attacked the redoubt. It was a hastily constructed 
work; but the 27th Division fought with steady deter- 
mination and contested its possession fiercely, the cavalry 
co-operating by means of repeated charges, in one of 
which the Russian Cuirassiers captured 5 guns. The 
position was taken and retaken three times, and Bagration 
seems to have contemplated holding it definitely, for 
at 8 he relieved Neverovski's troops by the division of 
Karl of Mecklenburg. But by this time Poniatowski 
was well advanced along the old Moscow road on the 
left; and about 10 p.m. Bagration, by Kutuzov's orders, 
withdrew to the main position. The losses on both sides 
had been considerable. Bagration, who had exposed 
himself in his usual reckless fashion, was slightly wounded, 
as were also Gorchakov and St. Priest. 

The French army was not yet fully concentrated, and 
Napoleon occupied the 6th in reconnoitring the Russian 
position and arranging his plan of attack, while the 
troops already on the field rested. On the Russian side 
the army was placed in position, and the day was for 
the most part spent in religious exercises, culminating 
in the progress of the Virgin of Smolensk, which had been 
rescued from the city, through the camps. 

The Russian commanders realised that they ran the 
risk of being turned by the old Moscow road. Tuchkov's 
corps was therefore withdrawn from the general reserve 
and posted at Utitza, with the Moscow militia behind it 
in support, and 6 regiments of Cossacks under Karpov 
on its left near Michino. On the plateau to the north of 
the new road were the 2nd and 4th Corps, the 2nd on the 
right and the latter to the left, near Gorki. Dokhturov, 
with a brigade of Voronzov's Grenadiers attached, stood 
between Gorki and the Great Redoubt. Raievski's 
weak corps occupied the space between Dokhturov and 


Semenovskoi and garrisoned the Great Redoubt, 
while the 8th Corps (less Voronzov's detached brigade) 
and the 27th Division held Semenovskoi and the redans. 
The wood between Borozdin's left and Tuchkov was 
occupied by 4 regiments of light infantry. Every corps 
had its Chasseur regiments thrown out in front. Borodino 
was garrisoned by the Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard. 
Kutuzov and Bennigsen were stationed between Gorki 
and TzareVo, whence they could overlook nearly the 
entire field. 

Behind the first line stood the cavalry, each reserve 
corps having attached for the day a regiment of Corps- 
Hussars. Uvarov, having also the Cossacks of the Guard, 
was with Baggohufwudt, Korff behind Ostermann- 
Tolstoi, Kreutz (vice Pahlen invalided) in rear of Dokh- 
turov, and Sievers behind Semenovskoi, with Duka's 
Cuirassier division. Plato v had 5 Cossack regiments 
watching the right flank, and 9 more in rear of the 2nd 
Corps. The 5th Corps, now under General Lavrov, was 
at Tzarevo, with an artillery reserve of about 240 field 
and horse guns. 

These dispositions have not escaped criticism. Clause- 
witz considers that there were too many troops on the 
right, and as they had eventually for the most part to be 
brought over to the left he was probably correct. Ben- 
nigsen says that he saw that the left would be attacked 
in force, and that Bagration needed reinforcing. Both 
opinions have rather the air of wisdom after the event, 
and the manoeuvre proposed by Clausewitz of forming a 
huge reserve, allowing Napoleon to drive back Bagration, 
and then attacking his advancing line in flank, seems 
rather a hazardous one. 

The Russian line comprised four sections. Milora- 
dovich commanded the 2nd and 4th Corps and the 1st 
and 2nd Cavalry Corps; Dokhturov the 6th Corps and 
the 3rd Cavalry Corps ; Gorchakov the 7th and 8th Corps 
and Sievers' cavalry ; and Tuchkov the 3rd Corps and the 


Moscow militia. Finally, Barclay was in charge of the 
right half of the line, Bagration of the left. This multi- 
plicity of generals was a nuisance. Barclay and Bagration 
sent orders direct to the divisional and brigade com- 

The precise part which Kutuzov took in the battle is 
uncertain : the general impression is that he left Barclay 
and Bagration to direct the movements of the troops, 
except in a few instances. 

It is a little doubtful if the Russian commanders 
intended nothing but a mere obstinate defensive. As 
has been already mentioned, Borodino was garrisoned 
and the bridge left intact; and from Barclay's actions 
and remarks, as recorded by Lowenstern, he seems to 
have contemplated a counter - offensive on the right. 
The vigour of the French attack, however, in any case 
rendered this idea, if entertained, fruitless. 

As regards the French plans, there is little information 
to be gathered from Napoleon's orders, which merely 
provide in the simplest manner for massing batteries 
and opening infantry attacks, after which directions 
would be given according to circumstances. Ponia- 1 
towski was to turn the Russian left by the old Moscow • 
road — a task for which he had not enough troops. Prob- 
ably, owing to the interposing woods, the Russian force 1 
on the old road had not been estimated at its real strength. 
Davout endeavoured to be allowed to make a strong i 
flanking movement, but Napoleon characterised it as ! 
too hazardous. Probably his real fear was that thei 
Russians would evacuate their position under its menace, i 
and so rob him of the battle which he anxiously desired. 
The battle resolved itself into a general assault of the! 
bulk of the French army upon the Borodino-Utitza line, 
which, to withstand the attacks upon it, was ultimately 
manned by the greater part of the Russian host. It is 
certain that Davout was in a state of sullen rage at the: 
rejection of his advice, as well as at the fact that Morand 


and Gerard were detached from the 1st Corps, and 
placed for the day under the orders of Eugene. 

Napoleon was certainly unwell. To say that he had a 
cold appears little to those who do not reflect that a cold 
may be very troublesome. Whatever the precise degree 
of Napoleon's sickness there can be no doubt as to his 
lack of activity, and for a circumstance so remarkable 
there must have been strong reasons. It was no small 
cause that could keep the great conqueror, during a 
battle upon which his fortunes depended, lying listlessly 
on a rug behind his line. 

During the 6th the French sappers raised three battery- 
emplacements in front of the 1st, 3rd and 4th Corps, 
each for 24 guns ; but they were placed at too great a 
distance from the Russian line and played no part in 
the battle. 

The night of the 6th~7th was foggy. Early on the 7th, 
while the troops were forming, the usual Imperial pro- 
clamation was read by the Colonels. It was a brief 
and uninspiring document, which can hardly have done 
much to raise the spirits of the men. De Chambray 
says that it was coldly received. Kutuzov's proclama- 
tion, which was read to the Russian troops after the 
religious services on the 6th, was a much more effective 

The French army was disposed in the following order 
from right to left. The 5th Corps was on the old Moscow 
road. Davout, with the divisions of Friant, Compans 
and Desaix, stood opposite Borozdin's position and the 
wood to its south. Ney continued the line to the Kolotza 
with Ledru's and Razout's divisions ; the relics of 
Scheler's Wurttemberg division, now consolidated into 
only 3 battalions, were in reserve. North of the Kolotza, 
communicating with the other troops by means of five 
trestle bridges, was Eugene with the 4th Corps (less Pino's 
division), Morand's and Gerard's divisions, Grouchy 's 
cavalry corps and Preising's Bavarian horsemen. 


In rear of Ney were the 8th Corps and Latour- 
Maubourg's cavalry. Nansouty's cavalry corps supported 
Davout. The Imperial Guard, with Montbrun's cavalry 
corps, just rejoined by its light division, formed the 
general reserve, its final position being about the 
Shevardino redoubt captured on the 5th, near which 
Napoleon stationed himself. 

About 6 a.m. the artillery of Davout's corps, speedily 
supported by that of Ney, began a furious cannonade of 
the Russian left centre. Very soon afterwards Davout 
opened the infantry attack, sending forward Compans* 
division against the Semenovsko'i redans, while Ney 
supported by moving forward Ledru on Compans' left. 
The Russian entrenchments were so slight that there 
was little difficulty in entering, but to hold them was a 
very different matter. Redan No. 2 was carried by the 
24th Leger and the 57th of the line, but Voronzov, 
charging with his six Grenadier battalions formed in 
square, supported by Neverovski and some of Sievers' 
dragoons, drove them out again, and the fight raged 
fiercely about the almost useless earthworks, which were 
taken and retaken as the generals on either side threw in 

Bagration, seeing the heavy masses advancing against 
him, and fearing that he would be overpowered, ordered 
Tuchkov to send Konovnitzin's division (now com- 
manded by Tuchkov IV, Konovnitzin being on Kutuzov's 
staff) from Utitza. This reinforcement was necessary, 
for by 8 Voronzov and Neverovski, no longer able to 
bear up against superior numbers, were evicted from all 
three redans, Voronzov being wounded. Tuchkov came 
up in time to rally the retreating battalions, and Bagration 
promptly led forward a fresh counter-attack which was 
successful in recovering the lost position, though Compans 
was now supported by Desaix. Already the terrible 
" Battle of the Generals " was earning its name. Compans 
was disabled first, then Desaix, while Rapp, sent by 



Napoleon to succeed Compans, received four wounds in 
about an hour. 

On the left Eugene had attacked Borodino with 
Delzons' division of the 4th Corps. The attack was 
made under cover of the mist which still hung over the 
field, and the village was carried with a rush. The Guard 
Chasseurs lost 30 officers in a quarter of an hour, and 
were driven in wild confusion to and across the Kolotza. 
The bridge was taken, and the 10 6th French Regiment 
poured across it in pursuit. The garrison would have 
been destroyed but for the 1st Chasseurs, under Colonel 
Karpenko, who hurried up to the rescue. Charged by 
them, and smitten by the fire of Ostermann-Tolstoi's 
guns from the farther bank, the 106th lost heavily. 
General Plauzonne was killed as he endeavoured to rally 
it, and its remains were driven back across the stream. 
Karpenko's charge was stopped by the 92nd Regiment, 
but he succeeded in destroying the bridge. Eugene left 
Delzons to watch the Kolotza north of the village, 
placed the Royal Guard in reserve, stationed the cavalry of 
the 4th Corps and Preising's division, now united under 
General Ornano, to cover the left flank, and turned 
Morand's, Gerard's and Broussier's divisions, supported 
by Grouchy, against Dokhturov and Raievski. 

On the right Poniatowski captured Utitza, held only 
by the outposts, without difficulty ; but on the knoll 
beyond Tuchkov had massed a strong force of artillery, 
supported by Strogonov's division, while the Chasseurs 
in the wood to the north brought a flanking fire to bear 
upon the Poles. Poniatowski ranged 40 guns in advance 
of the village, but they failed to silence Tuchkov' s artillery, 
and for some hours the action in this quarter was reduced 
to cannonading and skirmishing. 

Kutuzov, seeing that nearly the whole French army 
was moving against his centre and left, about 7.30 a.m. 
ordered Baggohufwudt to march the bulk of his corps to 
the support of Bagration. But as the movement would 


take some time, and Bagration appeared to need imme- 
diate support, the Ismailovski and Lithuanian Guards, 
some Grenadiers, and a brigade of Cuirassiers, were 
sent forward, much to the disgust of Barclay, who held 
strong views about depleting reserves until the last 
moment. He hurried to Kutuzov, and begged him not 
to use up the Guard until things became critical, and 
Kutuzov assented. His action during the greater part 
of the battle indeed seems to have been confined to 
approving his lieutenants' measures. 

Davout and Ney, after being forced from the redans, 
reformed their troops for another assault. Friant's 
division was called up in support, and Tharreau's division 
of the 8th Corps sent forward by Napoleon against the 
wood to the south, from which the Russian light infantry 
were keeping up a heavy fire. When the Westphalians 
began to penetrate the wood matters appeared critical 
for Bagration, exposed to attacks in front and flank at 
the same time ; but at 9 a.m. Baggohufwudt's corps 
arrived to his support. Eugen's division was placed in 
reserve behind Semenovskoi ; two of Olsuviev's regi- 
ments reinforced Tuchkov IV, while the remaining four 
pushed into the wood and drove the Westphalians out 

The attack on the wood had, however, caused the 
cessation of the flanking fire which had annoyed the 
Poles ; and Poniatowski attacked and carried the knoll 
behind Utitza. The success was but momentary. 
Strogonov rallied his broken division ; Tuchkov I himself 
led forward the Pavlovsk Grenadier regiment ; while 
Olsuviev broke out of the wood with two regiments of 
Chasseurs. Attacked in front and flank, and charged by 
Olsuviev in the rear, the Poles were unable to stand and 
were thrust back to Utitza. The Russian success was 
achieved at the cost of the life of Tuchkov, who was 
mortally wounded as he led on his Grenadiers. 

The arrival of Baggohufwudt enabled Bagration to 


steady his line against the renewed advance of Davout 
and Ney. The struggle on the low heights was in- 
describably close and desperate. Behind the furiously 
righting masses of infantry hovered the cavalry, charging 
again and again as opportunities presented themselves. 
By 10 a.m. the French had once more taken the redans ; 
and the 15th Leger, of Friant's division, fought its way 
into the ruins of Semenovskoi. Borozdin, charging with 
four regiments of Grenadiers, drove it out again past the 
redans, but was then set upon by Nansouty's cavalry and 
forced back ; and the struggle raged more furiously than 
ever as the French once more stormed the redans, to be 
hurled out again by a counter-attack of Tuchkov IV's 
division, led by Konovnitzin. Already the losses had 
been fearful. Romceuf, Davout's chief-of-staff, had 
fallen, and on the Russian side General Tuchkov IV, the 
second of his family to die for Russia on the field of 

Eugene, having crossed the Kolotza by the temporary 
bridges, placed batteries in position to bombard the 
Great Redoubt, and formed Morand's division opposite 
that of Paskievich, which held the knoll. Broussier 
moved forward in support on Morand's left, while Gerard 
was still crossing the stream. Paskievich' s troops outside 
the redoubt were so shattered by the fire of the French 
batteries that they sought refuge behind the shoulder 
of the knoll ; and General Bonami, with the 30th of 
the Line, saw his chance. As the regiment advanced up 
the knoll it suffered fearfully in its close formation, but 
nevertheless pressed on dauntlessly and stormed the 
work, after a furious struggle with the Russian infantry 
and gunners, who proved, as Captain Francois says, 
worthy antagonists. 

This sudden piercing of the centre of the Russian line 
produced an immediate counter-attack, while Morand's 
other regiments appear to have been too busy with 
Kolubakin's division to support Bonami. A message was 


hurriedly sent to Barclay ; but without waiting for 
orders all the officers on the spot immediately did the 
right thing. Yermolov, who was at hand, picked up a 
battalion of the Ufa regiment (Likhachev's division) and 
was joined by Colonel Lowenstern, Barclay's aide, 
with one of the Regiment of Tomsk. Likhachev hurried 
up the 19th and 40th Chasseurs. Vassilchikov promptly 
turned a battalion of Kolubakin's division against the 
lost redoubt, and Paskievich, rallying his broken division, 
again pushed forward. The improvised attack was 
completely successful. Unsupported, except by one 
battalion of the 13th Leger, the gallant 30th was lost. 
The redoubt was recaptured and Bonami desperately 
wounded and taken. As the remains of the regiment 
streamed away down the knoll, Barclay came upon the 
scene, and let loose a brigade of Kreutz's Dragoons. The 
30th was almost completely destroyed, only n officers 
and 257 men being able to rally. The Russians had not 
come off scatheless. Count Kutaisov was killed as he 
led the charge with Yermolov, and the latter was 
wounded. To cover the escape of the remains of the 30th 
Eugene concentrated a tremendous artillery fire on the 
redoubt, in which Barclay replaced Paskievich's shaken 
division by Likhachev's. 

The Great Redoubt was retaken at about n a.m., and 
at the same time Ney, Davout and Murat made a last 
and determined assault on Bagration's position about 
Semenovskoi. The last reserves of the 1st and 3rd 
Corps were thrown into the fight ; Napoleon sent up the 
rest of the 8th Corps ; behind the infantry were ranged 
Nansouty's and Latour-Maubourg's corps and the Corps 
Cavalry, and the attack was covered by the fire of over 
250 guns. 

This final assault was made by the French and Germans 
with magnificent courage. Under the furious fire of the 
Russian artillery and musketry the attacking columns 
pressed steadily on. The sight of their advance roused 


Bagration to generous admiration. Believing that it 
could not be stayed by artillery and infantry fire, he 
determined to make a counter-attack, and sent forward 
every available battalion. Again the opposing forces 
closed in deadly strife — Frenchmen, Russians and sturdy 
Germans, Spaniards and Portuguese enlisted in a quarrel 
not their own, fighting to the death around the blood- 
stained derelict redans. The cavalry joined in the 
conflict, individual regiments and squadrons striking in 
whenever an opportunity occurred. Bagration was 
desperately wounded in the leg ; and L6 wen stern tells 
how he found him lying among his staff behind the line, 
while Sir James Wylie, Alexander's surgeon, attended 
to his wound. He said to Lowenstern, " How goes it 
with Barclay ? Tell him that the safety of the army 
depends upon him. All goes well here at present " — and 
then seeing that Lowenstern was himself wounded, he 
kindly added : " Get yourself bandaged." This touch 
helps one to understand the personal admiration which 
Bagration undoubtedly inspired in nearly everyone who 
came in contact with him ; and it is certain that his fall 
caused a serious slackening in the vigour of the defence. 
Once more the stubborn Russians were driven from the 
redans and past Semenovskoi; and this time they were 
not to regain their lost positions. 

After Bagration's wound the temporary command 
devolved upon the brave soldier Konovnitzin ; but he 
was unable to check the retreat which had now definitely 
set in. The whole of the defending force gave back 
towards Tzarevo, and upon it Murat launched his great 
masses of cavalry. Still there appear to have been no 
signs of demoralisation, and little real disorder ; and, 
though clearly worsted, the Russian infantry maintained 
a desperate resistance. Behind Semenovskoi the 
Ismailovski and Lithuanian Guards, which had not yet 
been seriously engaged, were drawn up in squares ; and, 
their heavy fire checked the advance of the French 


cavalry. Murat brought up some batteries which opened 
fire against them, while in the intervals of the cannonade 
Latour-Maubourg's corps charged their shattered batta- 
lions. The Guards suffered fearfully, but closed their 
ranks and held firm, repelling three charges of the Saxon 
Cuirassiers, who were almost annihilated. The two 
regiments must, however, have been destroyed also but 
that Borozdin II came to their rescue with a Cuirassier 
brigade, checking the French horsemen by counter- 
charges and enabling the Guards to follow in the retreat, 
leaving their position outlined in squares of dead and 

In the rear of Semenovskoi the ground was covered with 
struggling hordes of infantry and cavalry. Out of the con- 
fusion at length emerged some sort of order, the Russians 
taking up position along the Tzarevo plateau, covered 
by the fire of batteries from the reserve, while Davout 
and Ney reformed in front of Semenovskoi. Davout had 
been hit four times, but declined to leave the field, 
though obliged to withdraw for a short time, during 
which Ney and Murat exercised the command. The King 
of Naples behaved with all his usual reckless bravery ; and 
Baron Lejeune speaks with admiration of the splendid 
figure presented by Ney, as he stood directing the battle 
from the parapet of a redan. And on the other side 
Barclay, now practically in sole command of the Russian 
army, was setting an example no less heroic, apparently 
wishing to meet his death on the field of Borodino. As 
the stress of battle grew, the Russian generals for the 
most part concealed the insignia which made them 
conspicuous ; not so the slandered War-Minister, who 
faced the storm wearing full-dress uniform and all his 
decorations. It is impossible not to appreciate the heroic 
impulse that prompted him, like Nelson and many 
another fiery spirit, to expose himself to death decorated 
with the badges won on the field of honour. His staff 
were almost all killed or wounded, and he had two 


Commander of the 3rd French Army Corps. The hero of the Retreat 

After the picture by Langlois at Versailles 


horses shot under him, but escaped with the slightest 

As he saw Bagration's line driven in, Kutuzov had 
ordered the 4th Corps also to draw in to the centre. By 
noon the Russian position was peculiar. Dokhturov on 
the right and Tuchkov on the left still faced the French 
in nearly their old positions, while the rest of the army 
stretched in a convex between them. To drive back 
Dokhturov and Tuchkov was Napoleon's next object, 
and he was about to order forward part of his Guard 
when, apparently a little after noon, he received intelli- 
gence that his left was being attacked. 

Early in the day Platov, reconnoitring towards the 
right, had ascertained that there were comparatively few 
French troops north of the Kolotza, and had proposed 
to the commander-in-chief a cavalry attack on their 
flank and rear. Kutuzov assented, and for the purpose 
detailed Uvarov's cavalry corps, 1 some 3500 sabres 
strong. Clausewitz, who was then on Uvarov's staff, 
criticises the movement severely. Certainly 3500 regular, 
and 4000 irregular, horsemen could not of themselves 
effect much ; but it is a little difficult to concur in his 
opinion that the detachment of Uvarov's corps was a 
rash weakening of the line. It is easier to agree with 
him when he says that the movement was made too 
early in the day. Uvarov, however, was very slow and 
did not cross the Kolotza until past eleven. About 11.30 
he approached the Voina (a little stream which enters 
the Kolotza at Borodino), at Besubovo, about a mile and 
a half from the former village. On the Russian side of 
the stream stood Guyon's cavalry brigade and a regiment 
of the Italian Guard, which withdrew over a mill dam 
before the fire of Uvarov's artillery to join the rest of the 
Guard and Delzons' division, which occupied Borodino. 
Platov now came up, and his wild horsemen dashed 
through a ford and among the Italian infantry, followed, 

1 Uvarov had 32 squadrons in all. 


without orders, by the Cossacks of the Guard, who lost 
heavily in charging the squares. Uvarov, however, 
would not risk his regulars, halted, sent for orders and 
finally withdrew. Clausewitz's comment is that he was 
not the man to lead such an attack. Lowenstern fumes 
at his slowness and hesitation. More, undoubtedly, 
might have been achieved with a bolder commander. 
Even so his feeble diversion brought Eugene back across 
the Kolotza with Broussier's division, and delayed the 
advance against the Great Redoubt. He finally with- 
drew about 3 p.m., but before this Eugene had returned 
across the Kolotza. 

All this time a tremendous and unprecedented cannon- 
ade was being kept up. Between Borodino and Utitza some 
900 guns were in action. The Great Redoubt was being 
furiously bombarded by Eugene's artillery, while Ney's 
batteries brought a converging fire to bear upon it from 
the southward. To storm it Eugene detailed Gerard's 
division, hitherto but lightly engaged, while Morand and 
Broussier supported ; and Napoleon ordered Montbrun, 
with his Cuirassier divisions, to charge the Russian line 
on Gerard's right. Montbrun was killed as he led forward 
his men, and General Caulaincourt, brother of the Duke 
of Vicenza, came hastily from the Emperor to take up 
the command. " Don't stop to lament ! " he said to the 
dead general's aides. " Follow and avenge him ! " The 
mass of mail-clad horsemen broke through the Russian 
line south of the redoubt, wheeled to the left and came 
thundering upon its rear, just as Eugene's infantry 
reached it in front. For the four regiments of Likhachev's 
division which held it there was no escape — at least as 
regards the major part. Some of them who were outside 
the work succeeded in saving themselves ; but those 
within were trapped and, after maintaining a desperate 
resistance against the charges in front and rear, were 
almost all cut to pieces. Likhachev, who was very ill, 
flung himself among the assailants, and had almost 


found the death which he sought when some French 
soldiers, attracted by his insignia, took him prisoner, 
severely wounded. Caulaincourt was struck down as he 
led the triumphant charge of his Cuirassiers — one more 
victim of the fatal " Battle of the Generals." 

The capture of the redoubt opened a huge gap in the 
Russian line, through which Eugene's and Grouchy's 
cavalry poured to complete the victory. Against them 
Barclay hurled all the horsemen whom he had under his 
hand — the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Corps and the Cuirassiers 
of the Guard — leading more than one charge in person, 
while Ostermann-Tolstoi's corps, supported by the yet 
unengaged portions of the 5th Corps, was ordered to make 
a counter-attack towards SemenovskoL Ostermann- 
Tolstoi, as he had shown at Ostrovno, was not the man 
for an emergency ; Lowenstern says that he appeared to 
have entirely lost his head. He moved forward so slowly 
that Ney, Davout and Murat were able to make prepara- 
tions to receive him. The French infantry were almost 
fought out ; the cavalry had literally " foamed them- 
selves away " in endeavouring to shatter the resistance 
of the stubborn Russian infantry ; the fire of the Russian 
artillery was as steady and effective as ever. The 
Marshals sent again and again for some part of the Guard 
to support their weary men, but Napoleon refused to 
risk it. The Russian writers express astonishment at 
his caution. All that he would do was to send forward 
the reserve of heavy artillery, under Comte Sorbier. 
Sorbier swore at Lejeune, who brought the order to 
advance. " I ought to have had it an hour ago ! " was 
his comment. 

The Marshals had got together 80 guns wherewith to 
oppose the Russian advance ; and when Sorbier came 
up the 4th Corps was overwhelmed with a crushing 
cannonade, against which it could not make way. Its 
losses were terrible. General Bakhmetiev had his leg 
carried away ; Ostermann-Tolstoi himself and several 


of his staff were wounded. The supporting cavalry 
charged with splendid audacity, and some of them 
actually re-entered the Semenovsko'i redans. All was in 
vain. Sorbier's battery had turned the scale against the 
Russians, and by about 4 o'clock they were in full re- 
treat. The infantry and cavalry on both sides were 
fairly fought out, and the struggle was maintained only 
by the artillery, except on the extreme left of the Russian 
line, where Tuchkov's force, now commanded by Baggo- 
hufwudt, was practically isolated. The Polish Corps, 
supported by the Westphalians on the left, succeeded 
about 5 p.m. in carrying the Utitza knoll, and Baggohuf- 
wudt, still barring the road, drew back into line with the 
centre and left. There was a last flicker of hostility near 
Semenovsko'i, where the Finnish Guards repulsed an 
advance of some French battalions, and then the battle 
died away in a dwindling cannonade, until a thick fog 
shrouded in a merciful veil the awful scene of slaughter. 
The Russian line, reformed by Barclay, stretched from 
beyond Gorki along the edge of the TzareVo plateau to 
the old Moscow road. Four Chasseur regiments, under 
Colonel Potemkin, were on the right with Platov's 
Cossacks. The remains of Dokhturov's corps, supported 
by Uvarov, held Gorki. Next came Ostermann-Tolsto'i's 
corps; and thence Raievski and Borozdin, with Prince 
Eugen's and Shakovski's (late Tuchkov IV's) divisions, 
continued the line to Baggohufwudt's position. The 
cavalry was in rear, and the 5th Corps in reserve behind 
the centre. The French lay opposite, Delzons and 
Lecchi north of the Kolotza and, to the south of the river, 
the 4th, 3rd, 1st, 8th and 5th Corps in succession from 
Borodino through Semenovsko'i to a point about 1200 
yards east of Utitza. 

The consensus of opinion of eyewitnesses on the 
Russian side is that the spirit of the Russians was un- 
broken, and that there was little confusion in the ranks. 
Lowenstcrn says that he offered to attack the Great 


Redoubt at break of day, and that Barclay approved. 
Kutuzov, however, when he learned the extent of the 
slaughter in his army, decided to retreat. It is quite 
certain that he must have retired in a day or two, since 
he had no reserves, while Napoleon had 11,000 fresh 
troops (Laborde and Pino) approaching the field. Barclay, 
however, was bitterly angry ; and when he received the 
order to retreat broke into a fierce invective against 
Bennigsen, to whose influence he attributed Kutuzov's 

Under cover of darkness the Russian army quietly 
withdrew, and on the 8th took up a position in front of 
Mozhaisk. The retreat was effectually covered by the 
Cossacks, who displayed great audacity, and in the night 
of the 7th-8th repeatedly disturbed the French bivouacs. 
The French cavalry, shattered and exhausted, could do 
little or nothing, and the Russians remained all through 
the 8th at Mozhaisk, employing the time in reorganising, 
and in evacuating towards Moscow as many as possible 
of their wounded. Nevertheless many were left to 
inevitable death on the field, and thousands more 
abandoned at Mozhaisk to the mercy of the French, who, 
themselves in a sorely distressed condition, simply cast 
them out to die of misery in the fields. 

Regarding the major tactics of the battle of Borodino 
there is little to say. Napoleon had deliberately chosen 
to make a frontal attack upon the Russian army in place 
of turning it ; and in the practical absence of his personal 
supervision the battle almost fought itself. The idea of 
taking advantage of the extension of the Russian right 
by overwhelming the left was an excellent one. It was 
foiled by the determination of Bagration's resistance, 
which permitted Baggohufwudt's corps to be moved 
across to his support. On the part of the Russians the 
occupation in force of the position north of the new road 
proved a blunder, which the remarkable solidity of the 
Russian resistance enabled the generals to repair in time. 


As regards what is often considered Napoleon's fatal 
error in not throwing in the Guard it is very doubtful 
whether it was an error at all. It must be remembered 
that Ney's and Davout's troops were almost, if not quite, 
fought out, that the Russians were still solid and un- 
demoralised, and holding a position quite as strong as 
that from which they had been evicted ; and that 
Kutuzov still had some almost untouched reserves. 
The Guard would have had no easy victory, and Napoleon 
was probably right when he refused to expose it to severe 
and perhaps fatal losses. He knew that the Russians 
were neither routed nor in disorder ; and if they stood to 
fight again nearer Moscow he might yet have sore need of 
his Guard. He was 1200 miles from the frontier of his 
dominions, and in case of disaster all must depend 
upon it. 

Of the minor tactics little need be said. On both sides 
they were crude and wasteful. There was a deficiency 
of infantry on the French side, and the cavalry was freely 
employed to supplement it, with the result that it was 
half destroyed. The infantry formations were dense and 
clumsy, it was a case of heavy mass pushing against 
heavy mass, with cavalry mingled in the melee, and all 
under the fire of a thousand or more pieces of artillery. 
It is no wonder that the losses were unprecedented on 
both sides. 

Napoleon gave his loss at 10,000. French writers 
admit the suspicious round number of 28,000 — 6547 
killed and 21,453 wounded — but Martinien's lists show 
49 generals and 1934 officers killed and wounded, and 
even allowing for the fact that many of the effectives 
were now low, and the proportion of officers to rank 
and file therefore higher than usual, this can scarcely 
imply less than 43,000 casualties. Even the troops 
which had never been sent forward had suffered some- 
what from the cannonade. 

The losses of the First Russian Army from the 4th to 

BATTLE OF BORODINO (September 7TH, 1812) 


the 7th of September are stated by Bogdanovich at 9252 
killed and 19,226 wounded. Those of the Second Army 
may perhaps, since it contained only 54 battalions and 
52 squadrons as against Barclay's 122 battalions and 112 
squadrons, be estimated at 12,000. Adding the losses of 
the militia, a total is obtained of possibly 41,000 or 
42,000. Sir Robert Wilson estimates it at 1500 officers 
and 36,000 men. Buturlin gives 15,000 killed and 30,000 

Prisoners there were few — perhaps 1000 or 1200 
French and 2000 Russians. The estimates of guns 
captured are somewhat vague. Kutuzov's official figure 
of French guns taken and carried off by the Russians is 8. 
There may, of course, have been others disabled. The 
Russians seem to have lost about 18 in all. 

On the field Borodino can scarcely be described as 
anything but a drawn battle. Napoleon had gained a 
little ground, but the Russian army was unbroken and 
apparently quite willing to renew the contest next day. 
Strategically the French appeared to have obtained 
a slight success, since they were able to continue their 
advance to Moscow. On the other hand, the battle, 
which ruined the cavalry and seriously shattered the 
infantry, brought ultimate ruin distinctly nearer. Perhaps 
its most noteworthy result was the extent to which the 
morale of the Napoleonic army was broken. 




>HE morning of the 8th of September found the 
army of Napoleon bivouacked among the dead 
and wounded on the field of Borodino. Only 
the Guard was really ready for further combat. The 
corps of Davout and Ney were terribly cut up ; the 17th, 
30th and 106th Regiments were nearly destroyed. The 
cavalry, which had had to compensate for Napoleon's 
comparative weakness in infantry, had suffered fearfully. 
Nearly all its corps and divisional commanders were j 
killed or wounded ; several regiments were almost 
N / annihilated. The four corps of the reserves counted 

some 19,000 men on September 2nd ; on the 20th they 
could muster little more than 10,000. Thousands of 
horses had been killed, and there was no present possi- 
bility of being able to replace them, while the wounded 
animals were mostly doomed to perish from lack of 
forage and proper care. The cavalry of the Guard alone I 
was in a state for serious combat. 

The fate of the wounded was horrible. Means of every 
kind for tending them were lacking, and fortunate werei 
those whose end was hastened by the incurable nature of j| 
their hurts, or thirst and starvation. Days elapsed before 
all had received so much as first aid ; and this was but 
the commencement of their miseries. The great monas 
tery of Kolotsko'i became the principal hospital, and in 
its buildings the victims of Borodino were huddled 
literally in heaps, without beds even of straw, without 



food or fire, and without a tenth of the medical aid that 
was needed. Some of the wounded officers were able to 
buy food, at enormous prices, from the convoys which 
passed these dens of horror ; but for the unhappy rank 
and file, who possessed little or no money, there was no 
hope. Sanitation there was none, and the unfortunate 
beings died in thousands, amid filth, pestilence and 
neglect. Francois says that in one hospital a dead 
officer was found who, in the agonies of starvation, had 
devoured his own arm to the bone. It is a painful task 
even to touch upon these sickening details, but to 
fail to do so is to neglect the primary duty of an 

Besides the enormous diminution of the effective 
strength, the state of the ammunition-trains was by no 
means reassuring. There is reason to believe that the 
artillery had fired 90,000 rounds during the 5th and 7th ; 
the infantry must have expended millions of cartridges. 
It is certain that, immediately after Borodino, Napoleon 
was anxiously pressing for fresh supplies of ammunition ; 
and it is doubtful if he could have delivered another 
pitched battle before they arrived. 

Worse than all, the spirit of the troops was grievously 
depressed. The gaiety which commonly characterises 
Frenchmen, even in untoward circumstances, had 
vanished. Gloomy silence reigned during the march and 
in the bivouacs. The negative results of the great battle 
had completed the discouragement of the troops. The 
French soldiers, at any rate, were too intelligent not to 
have some inkling of the disasters that might too probably 
lie before them. 

On the whole Kutuzov might perhaps have remained 
longer on the field of battle. It is, however, probable 
that his withdrawal to Mozhaisk was wise. He had 
dealt a tremendous blow at the efficiency and morale of 
Napoleon's army, but in doing so his own forces had 
been fearfully shattered. Had he remained in position 


the circumstance might have decided Napoleon to use 
the almost untouched Guards, and so at the last moment 
wring a victory from frowning Fortune. 

When the sun dissipated the autumn fog which had 
enwrapped the field, the Russian position was seen to be 
guarded only by the hovering pulks of Platov's Cossacks. 
Against them Murat moved such of his exhausted horse- 
men as could be rallied ; and before the advance of 
regular squadrons the riders withdrew. Behind them, 
however, were supports of infantry — the four Chasseur 
regiments of the 2nd Corps. They gave back very slowly, 
and did not reach Mozhaisk until 4 p.m. By that time a 
large number of the Russian wounded had already been 
evacuated. The town, however, was still choked with 
disabled men, many of whom were in a state to be 
moved, and to cover this operation Kutuzov directed 
Platov to hold it as long as possible. The Russian main 
body was in position behind it. 

Napoleon, as soon as he was assured that the Russians 
had really retired, ordered Murat to press their retreat. 
The King had the four reserve cavalry corps and the 
light horse of Ney and Davout as before, — a total now 
of not more than 14,000 lances and sabres — but Compan's 
shattered division was replaced by that of Dufour [vice 
Friant wounded). The Emperor apparently at first 
believed that Kutuzov was in full retreat, and the head- 
quarters baggage was directed on Mozhaisk ; but Murat, 
as aforesaid, made little or no headway against Platov ; 
and the head-quarters could not be transferred. Desultory 
skirmishing and cannonading went on until nightfall, 
when Platov was still in possession of Mozhaisk. 

The firm front shown by Platov must have convinced 
Napoleon that the spirit of the Russians was unbroken. 
He spent a part of the day in going over the battle-field, 
examining the positions and reviewing the troops accord- 
ing to his custom. In the afternoon he went forward to 
join Murat, and on the way received another unpleasant 


reminder of the unabated courage of his foes, some 
foragers being driven in by Cossacks, and an alarm caused. 
On this day, however, a much needed reinforcement 
arrived in the form of Pino's Italian division. 

At about 10 a.m. on the 9th Platov was fiercely attacked 
by Murat, expelled, and driven along the Moscow road. 
Murat 's pursuit was checked by a reinforcement of twelve 
battalions and a heavy battery sent back by Kutuzov, 
but Mozhaisk was lost, and Napoleon transferred his head- 
quarters thither. Some thousands of the most seriously 
injured of the Russian wounded were still there ; and 
there were hideous scenes as they were cast out of the 
houses for those of the French army, who, in carriages 
and waggons, or dragging themselves along on foot, 
streamed in piteous procession in rear of the leading 
troops. The Russian main body retired deliberately to 
Semlino (or Shelkovka) about 12 miles east of Mozhaisk. 

Napoleon himself remained for three days at Mozhaisk 
recovering from his cold, and transacting arrears of 
business. Already on August 27th he had sent orders to 
Victor to bring the 9th Corps from the Niemen up to 
Smolensk ; and from Mozhaisk fresh directions were 
despatched for him. From Mozhaisk also was sent the 
bulletin announcing the battle of Borodino. As his cold 
rendered him speechless Napoleon wrote it with his own 
hand ; and, being at best an execrable writer, the result 
may be imagined. The French losses are stated in it at 
10,000. This would, according to Napoleon's usual 
standard, indicate from 40,000 to 50,000 casualties. 

Meanwhile the Russian army was still steadily retiring 
on the high-road to Moscow, and Murat deliberately 
following. Eugene, as before, marched on the north by a 
track running roughly parallel with the main road by 
the towns of Rusa and Zvenigorod, while Poniatowski 
formed the right flank guard on the south. Junot re- 
mained at Borodino and Kolotskoi to guard the hospitals. 
In support of Murat marched Mortier with the divisions 


of Roguet and Claparede ; and behind him Davout and 
Ney in the order named. 

Kutuzov was displeased with Platov for abandoning 
Mozhaisk prematurely, as he considered, and superseded 
him in the command of the rear-guard by Miloradovich. 
On the 10th the Russian main body made another 
deliberate march of about 8 miles, while Miloradovich 
stood to fight at Krymskoie, some 3 miles short of 
Kutuzov's evening position. His force consisted of six 
weak regiments of Chasseurs, four line regiments, 
Uvarov's nearly intact cavalry division, and some 
Cossacks. He occupied a low, partly wooded ridge ; 
his left was covered by a marsh, his right by woods, 
while in the centre the high-road approached the ridge 
by a narrow gully which was commanded by the Russian 
guns. Clausewitz, however, who was present, does not 
consider that the position was particularly advantageous. 
The twenty defending battalions can hardly have mustered 
over 6000 bayonets. Murat came up towards 5 p.m., and 
developed a fierce attack by Dufour's division upon the 
right of the position, defended by three Chasseur regi- 
ments under Colonel Potemkin. After a hard struggle 
Potemkin was forced back from the summit of the ridge, 
but he held firm, supported by three regiments sent to 
his support by Miloradovich. Uvarov's horsemen suc- 
ceeded in keeping Murat's broken regiments at bay ; and 
the Russians fought on doggedly until darkness put an 
end to the contest. The Russian loss is stated, probably 
with some exaggeration, at 2000. As Martinien's lists 
show 71 officers killed and wounded between the 8th and 
10th, the French can scarcely have lost less than 1200. 

On the nth the main Russian army marched 16 miles 
to Viazema (Viazma on modern maps). Miloradovich 
retired to Kubinskoi, 8 miles from Krymskoie, unpursued 
by Murat. Eugene and Poniatowski were nearly level 
with Murat on the north and south, Mortier and Davout 
some distance behind, and Ney only a short way past 


Mozhaisk. On the 12th Kutuzov retrograded to 
Momonovo, a bare ten miles from Moscow, while 
Miloradovich withdrew to Malo Viazema, 12 miles 
to the westward, leisurely followed by Murat. On the 
same day Napoleon left Mozhaisk for the front. 

The question of the fate of Moscow was now imminent. 
It is at least possible that Kutuzov would have risked 
another battle had there been a fair prospect of success. 
But it cannot be said that this was the case. All the way 
from Mozhaisk the militia had been steadily joining, but 
even so the army mustered less than 90,000 men, and of 
these only 65,000 were regulars, as against over 90,000 
still under Napoleon's hand. Many of the militia were 
as yet unequipped with fire-arms, and all were raw and 
without training. Kutuzov could expect no further 
reinforcements of regulars for weeks, whereas Napoleon 
would be joined within ten days by Laborde's division 
as well as by some regiments de marche. The defective 
state of his ammunition Kutuzov did not know. The 
spirit of the Russian troops was indeed excellent, but 
against it was the greatest military genius of modern 
times, backed by an army wearied indeed, and in part 
much disheartened, but not yet demoralised, and includ- 
ing 20,000 untouched and undiscouraged veterans. 

J)&jLuiie_xatli-€ottnt Feodor Vasilievich Rostopchin, a 
former favourite and confidant of the ill-fated Emperor 
Paul, and a fanatical opponent of the French alliance, 
had been appointed Governor-General of Moscow. 
Whether he was the right man for his position must be 
questioned. It does not appear that anything was done 
to organise and arm the inhabitants or fortify the city. 
Nevertheless Rostopchin was furious at the idea of 
abandoning Moscow. According to Wilson he never 
forgave Kutuzov for keeping him in ignorance of the 
critical state of affairs. 

As a fact he must have known that the evacuation of 
the city was to be expected ; and he appears to have 


been steadily clearing it as far as possible of its inhabitants. 
This was the more practicable because in the summer 
Moscow was considerably less populated than in the 
winter, the nobles and their large households of serfs 
and retainers being absent on their estates. Otherwise 
the Governor, who was not a soldier, seems to have 
considered a good many rather wild plans of resistance. 
It would have been perfectly feasible to defend Moscow 
with the 90,000 troops of Kutuzov, but its destruction 
would thereby have been rendered inevitable. As 
regards Rostopchin's project of arming the inhabitants, it 
is certain that such muskets as were available were 
obsolete and of bad quality. For the rest, 200,000 human 
beings cannot abandon their homes in a day, and since 
the French found the city nearly deserted it is obvious 
that the exodus of the Muscovites had long been in 

On the 13th the Russians fell back to Fili, and took up a 
position on the east side of Moscow, chosen by Bennigsen, 
who eulogises it in his memoirs, saying that its only 
defect was that it was rather long. On arriving Barclay 
proceeded to inspect it, while Kutuzov, who could ill 
support the fatigue of the campaign, rested. Dokhturov, 
who apparently had a touch of the courtier about him, 
proceeded to serve him a meal, but the little picnic was 
quickly interrupted by Colonel Lowenstern asking for 
Dokhturov, with whom Barclay wished to confer. 

" As usual ! " said Barclay as he sent off Lowenstern. 
" There they all are, dancing attendance on the Prince, 
and not troubling about what they (the French) may 
do. Fetch Dokhturov here, even if his mouth is still 

Kutuzov apparently rather enjoyed Dokhturov's dis- 
appointment on being thus interrupted. " You must 
not keep General Barclay waiting," he remarked. " I 
shall manage very well by myself," and therewith pro- 
ceeded with his meal, while poor Dokhturov was obliged 


to go. Barclay and he studied the position and came to 
the conclusion that it was too weak. 

A council of war was called for four o'clock in the 
afternoon. Bennigsen, still busy examining the position, 
kept the other generals waiting until six. There were 
present Kutuzov, Barclay, Bennigsen, Dokhturov, 
Konovnitzin, Raievski, Uvarov, Ostermann-Tolstoi, 
Yermolov, Toll, and, later on, Platov. Bennigsen 
opened the discussion by asking whether it was better to 
give battle or to abandon the capital. Kutuzov inter- 
rupted him, pointing out that the question was not of 
Moscow, but the salvation of all Russia, and that 
this clearly depended upon the preservation of the 

Barclay strongly supported Kutuzov, and he was 
followed by Raievski, Konovnitzin, and Ostermann- 
Tolstoi. Barclay appears otherwise to have had no great 
confidence in the ability of the Russian troops, diluted 
with militia, to manoeuvre. When fighting generals such 
as Raievski and Konovnitzin ranged themselves with 
him the question was practically decided. According to 
Bennigsen he was supported by Dokhturov and Platov ; 
but his claim to have had the votes of Konovnitzin and 
Yermolov is elsewhere contradicted. To his suggestion 
that battle should be delivered Ostermann-Tolstoi 
replied with a blunt question as to whether he was ready 
to answer for victory. Bennigsen evaded this embarrass- 
ing query ; but Kutuzov, who had perhaps already 
made up his mind, ended the discussion by deciding upon 
retreat. As to its direction Barclay appears to have 
considered that it should be to the eastward on Vladimir 
and Nizhnii Novgorod ; but Toll, thinking more of the 
question of supplies, suggested a retirement towards 
Kaluga. A dire ct retrea t on the latt ex place would have 
exposed the army to one of Napoleon's dreaded flanking 
attacks Strategically Barclay's suggestion was sound 
enough, if perhaps over-cautious. Clausewitz points out 


that Napoleon's offensive power was exhausted, and that 
he could scarcely have pursued. 

Kutuzov decided that the line of the retreat should be 
by Kolomna on Riazan, thus intermediate between that 
suggested by Barclay and that proposed by Toll. By 
taking it no opening was afforded for a flank attack ; 
and it would be easy to manoeuvre on either wing should 
occasion arise. The commissariat of the army would be 
assured since it would have at its back the fertile " Black 
Soil " provinces ; and it would furthermore be in easy 
communication with the manufactories of arms at Tula 
and elsewhere. Orders were therefore issued for the 
retreat of the army by the Kolomna road. Bennigsen 
was extremely discontented, and showed his displeasure 
by leaving the council. He attributed it to Barclay, and 
their relations, already strained, became more hostile 
than ever. 

There can be no doubt that Kutuzov and Barclay 
were correct in their resolution to retreat, but it was 
no light thing to make it. Kutuzov was greatly agitated ; 
he passed a sleepless night, and more than once tears 
were seen to roll down his cheeks. No Englishman can 
perhaps fully understand what it meant to a Russian to 
leave " White- Walled Moscow," the mother of the Russian 
land, to the mercy of an enemy. 

Barclay, though now in bad health, took executive 
command of the evacuation. At 2 a.m. on the 14th the 
army began its passage through the city. The troops, 
in the deepest dejection, tramped through the streets 
with furled standards and silent bands, many of them, 
officers and men, sobbing with rage and despair. The 
foreign commandant of the Kremlin garrison regiment 
began the evacuation with band playing, according to 
the usages of war, and there was a violent outcry among 
the retreating soldiery. They indignantly shouted that 
he was rejoicing, and the music had to cease. 

Barclay stationed his staff-officers along the line of 


By permission of the Berlin Photographic Co. 


The Emperor is standing on the Sparrow Hills, from which an imposing view 
of the old Russian capital is obtained. 

From the painting by Verestchagin. 


retreat to enforce order. Knowing the especial weakness 
of the Russian soldiers, he issued strict orders that 
anyone found in a beer-shop or intoxicated was to be 
summarily punished. He worked himself to death in 
directing the march, and was on horseback for eighteen 
hours. He complained bitterly of the inefficiency of the 
staff, which, as usual, did little or nothing to facilitate 
the march. There was frequently disorder among the 
retiring columns. None the less it must be said that the 
operation was remarkably successful. By 9 o'clock in 
the evening, after eighteen hours of incessant toil, 90,000 
fighting men, more than 600 guns and thousands of 
vehicles, had been passed through the great city and 
were on the Kolomna road. Kutuzov himself traversed 
Moscow in the morning. An eyewitness states that he 
saw him near the Kolomna gate sitting in his carriage 
quite alone, resting his head on his hands, silent and 
sad, while before him troops, guns, and waggons poured 
in an endless stream. The head of the army halted for the 
night at Panki, a village about ten miles from the city, 
where Kutuzov established his head-quarters. 

Meanwhile, early on the 13th, Napoleon halted his 
army, fearing that Kutuzov was manoeuvring to attack 
his right flank. That he could conceive such an eventu- 
ality shows how completely, and not for the first time in 
the campaign, his cavalry had failed to keep touch with 
the enemy. At 10 a.m., however, he became convinced 
that the Russian army was still in his front, and resumed 
his march. At 1 p.m. on the 14th Murat's vanguard 
crowned the Sparrow Hills, about a mile and a half west 
of Moscow, and saw before them in the plain the Russian 
rear-guard, and beyond it the widespreading city — the 
goal which they had toiled so strenuously to attain. 

The Russian army was still pouring through the 
streets, and Miloradovich sent an officer to Murat to 
propose a short armistice, adding that if it were not 
granted he should defend the city step by step, and fire 


it as he fell back. After a while a sort of informal suspen- 
sion of arms until 7 p.m. was made between Miloradovich 
and Sebastiani, now commanding the 2nd Cavalry Corps. 
The Russians evacuated the Dorogomilov suburb at 
3 p.m., and Murat quietly followed. At about the same 
time Napoleon reached the Sparrow Hills. He is said 
to have gazed long and eagerly upon the goal of his 
wishes, now spread out before his greedy eyes ; but he 
may well have muttered the words attributed to him : 
" It is full time ! " 

The Emperor approved of the informal truce concluded 
by Murat. The peaceful occupation of Moscow jwas an 
end bought cheaply" enough at the price of the quiet 
withdrawal of the Russian rear-guard. Mortier was to 
be Governor, General Durosnel Military Commandant, 
and M. Lesseps, who had formerly been French Consul- 
General at St. Petersburg, Intendant of the province of 
Moscow. Orders were issued to prevent the ingress of 
plunderers. Eugene and Poniatowski were ordered to 
halt some miles short of the city. Mortier was directed 
to occupy the Kremlin, and to maintain order by severe 
methods. As the day wore on the 1st and 3rd Corps and 
the old Guard closed up on Murat. It is a characteristic- 
ally French touch that the men had decked themselves 
out in their parade uniforms to take part in the triumphal 

As Miloradovich evacuated quarter after quarter of the 
city Murat advanced, dreading surprise, and taking great 
precautions against it. The streets were deserted ; 
silence reigned everywhere. Near the Kremlin a 
tumultuous gathering of citizens and stragglers opened 
a scattering fire. They were dispersed by cannon shots, 
and Murat moved on, only to find silence and apparent 
desertion. Miloradovich marched through the city and 
established himself for the night some 4 miles from the 
Kolomna gate. Winzingerode's detachment, which had 
been falling back before Eugene, was on the St. Petersburg 


road, and another cavalry detachment was escorting 
the public treasure and the archives of Moscow to 

When at last it became evident that Moscow was indeed 
deserted by most of its native inhabitants, a deputation 
of foreign residents was collected to be presented to 
Napoleon. His mortification was extreme. He quartered 
himself in the Dorogomilov suburb, and, between his 
anxiety and the dirt and vermin of an ill-kept abode, 
spent a restless night. 

Mortier had duly occupied the Kremlin with Roguet's 
division, sending Claparede to support Murat. The silence 
of the city impressed even the reckless soldiery of Napoleon. 
Sergeant Bourgogne naively expresses it by remarking 
how disappointed they were to see not even a pretty girl 
listening to the regimental bands. With darkness dis- 
order broke forth everywhere. It was impossible to 
prevent ill-fed and ill-clad men from pillaging when all 
that they needed, not to speak of wealth, which appeared 
to their ignorance inconceivable, lay ready to hand. In 
the evening fires were already breaking out. In the 
morning of the 15th Napoleon, escorted by the Old 
Guard, took up his residence in the Imperial Palace in 
the Kremlin. 

It should here be said that the Kreml, or citadel, com- 
monly known in Western Europe as the " Kremlin," was 
the original fortress or walled town of Moskva, fortified 
in 1 147 by Prince Yuri Dolgoruki (Long-handed George), 
the son of the famous Great Prince Vladimir Monomakh. 
Around it grew up in the course of ages various suburbs, 
and these were in their turn walled. As the streets were 
wide, and there were many very large buildings — 
palaces, monasteries, and the like — often standing in 
spacious gardens or enclosures, the city covered an 
enormous area. It had the characteristics in general of a 
vast country suburb rather than of a city. 

A volume might be written concerning the burning of 


Moscow. The catastrophe has been described in the 
works of numerous eyewitnesses, and lengthy reference 
to the event itself hardly falls within the compass of this 
work. Three points must, however, be dealt with : 
the causes of the conflagration ; its extent ; and its 
effects upon the fortunes of Napoleon. 

As regards the origin of the fire it may be regarded as 
certain that it was not the outcome of Russian patriotic 
frenzy. The whole evidence is to the contrary ; and the 
fury and grief of the Russians at the destruction of their 
holy city were obviously genuine. It was equally not due 
to the deliberate action of the invaders, who had every 
motive for preserving the city for their own convenience. 
It remains to be considered whether it was the act of 
Rostopchin or due to mere accident, assisted by a 
fortuitous combination of circumstances. 

Public opinion at the time attributed the conflagration 
to Rostopchin. Two of his own residences were destroyed, 
and a few weeks later he deliberately fired his country 
mansion at Voronovo in order to prevent its seizure by 
the French. Sir Robert Wilson, who had means of 
knowing, says that Rostopchin's design was notorious, 
and that in order to prevent him from carrying it into 
execution Kutuzov repeatedly announced his intention 
of delivering battle before Moscow. Buturlin, the con- 
temporary Russian historian, also attributes the fire to 
the Governor. 

Rostopchin's own testimony cannot unfortunately be 
trusted. He, at the time, admitted the responsibility of 
having burned Moscow. Nevertheless later, as a voluntary 
exile abroad, he repudiated it. All that can be said is 
that either he was really responsible, or that if not he 
claimed the credit in the belief that the burning of 
Moscow would be regarded as an heroic action, and only 
disowned complicity when he found that it was generally 
considered atrocious. 

The French believed that the fire was caused by 


Rostopchin's incendiaries, and hundreds or thousands 
of the Muscovites remaining in the city were hanged, 
bayoneted, or shot as such. The French, however, as all 
their history goes to show, have an unhappy tendency to 
lose their heads at a crisis, and it is certain that during 
the burning of Moscow they were wellnigh insane with 
panic. For the rest, they were utterly ignorant of their 
victims' language. 

Certain facts appear to emerge from the confusion as 
proved : — 

(1) The city was by no means entirely deserted by the 
more respectable classes. Tutulmin, the director of the 
foundling hospital, remained at his post ; and a certain 
number of merchants and gentlemen, some of Francophil 
leanings, did not leave. The foreign colony — chiefly 
French — also remained. 

(2) The lowest of the lower classes naturally remained ; 
and the disreputable elements probably preferred to take 
their chance of making their profit out of the invaders. 
The criminals in the prisons had also been released. 

(3) Whatever may have been the case as regards the 
mass of ordinary private dwellings, the palaces and 
mansions, of which Moscow was full, as well as most of 
the many warehouses and shops, were abandoned, as a 
seaman might say, " all standing." 

(4) The fire was beginning as the Russian rear-guard 
left the city. 

(5) Plundering on the part of the invaders com- 
menced almost immediately after their entry. 

(6) The wind changed its direction more than once. 

(7) The French captured and utilised a vast quantity 
of gunpowder. 

(8) Several thousand Russian wounded were left in 
the city. 

The obvious deduction from (1) and (3) is that Moscow 
was hurriedly evacuated, and this is further supported by 


the evidence of (7) and (8). Had there been any settled 
plan of destruction one does not see why the powder- 
magazines were not fired, and the buildings of most 
importance to the invaders ruined. Nothing of this 
description was attempted, and the ammunition was for 
the most part saved by the French, to their great advan- 
tage. For the rest, with a mob of soldiery, together with 
a mixed horde of camp-followers of all nations, beggars, 
criminals, and prostitutes, plundering indiscriminately, 
there was every opportunity for wanton destruction. 
The frequent changes of the wind helped to spread the 
conflagration, and it was further assisted by the fact that 
the great majority of the private dwellings were wooden 

On the whole, regarding the question solely from the 
standpoint of the established facts, it seems at least 
possible that the conflagration of Moscow, like most 
events of the kind recorded in history, was accidental in 
its origin. 

It is probable that four-fifths of Moscow vanished 
in the conflagration, but it is doubtful if the material 
injury inflicted upon the invaders was very serious. In 
the city itself some 500 secular buildings of stone and 
brick survived, besides many churches and convents. 
The Kremlin was little injured. It is also clear that there 
were available great stores of food and other supplies. 
Forage alone was lacking. De Fezensac, who now com- 
manded the 4th Regiment of Ney's corps, which was 
generally encamped outside the city, speaks of trouble in 
obtaining supplies, and of poor and coarse fare, but not of 
actual want. In Moscow itself there appears to have been 
a superfluity of food, though flour was less abundant than 
other less necessary supplies. Clothing and materials 
for manufacturing it were seized in quantities, and no 
doubt the whole army could have been refitted had 
organised attempts been made to that end. 

It was the possession of Moscow which exercised a 


disastrous influence upon the fortunes of Napoleon. 
Having failed to crush the Russian field-army, and 
thereby force Alexander to make peace, he had now 
become obsessed with the idea that the occupation of 
Moscow would bring about the desired consummation of 
his hopes. There was, indeed, hardly ever the slightest 
chance of their fulfilment, but Napoleon could not 
bring himself to admit this, and lingered among the 
ruins for week after week. 

It is certain that fires were already commencing as the 
Russians evacuated the city ; but the first serious out- 
break appears to have occurred at a Government spirit 
store. It was extinguished, but soon afterwards the 
great bazaar in which, as at Constantinople and other 
Oriental cities, the bulk of the retail trade of Moscow 
was concentrated, was found to be on fire. Both spirit 
stores and shops would be natural marks for plunderers. 
The wind rose, drifted inflammable wreckage across the 
city, and scattered it among the wood-built suburbs, 
through which the conflagration spread with terrifying 
rapidity. The stories that the fire engines had dis- 
appeared, and that the ropes of the wells had been cut, 
may be taken for what they are worth. It is obvious 
that little organised endeavour to control the conflagra- 
tion of a vast and largely wood-built city was, or could 
be, made. The Guards in the central quarters soon 
abandoned all efforts to fight the flames in order to 
devote themselves to plunder, and the officers of the 
corps encamped outside, convinced that it was vitally 
necessary to fill their nearly empty store-waggons, 
permitted, or connived at, the entry of their own men 
to take part in the sack. 

Napoleon himself remained in the Kremlin until the 
16th, when a change in the wind brought the conflagra- 
tion from the suburbs to the inner quarters of the city, 
and rendered residence in the Imperial Palace dangerous, 
more especially since the larger part of the captured 


powder-magazines were within the citadel. The Emperor 
left by the river gate — the land fronts of the walled 
enclosure being practically encircled by the flames — and 
proceeded along the quays, eventually reaching the 
Imperial palace of Petrovski, some 2 miles on the Peters- 
burg road. 

With Napoleon's departure pillage became universal. 
Some officers endeavoured to induce their men to take 
food and clothing, but apparently with little success, 
and that vast quantities of food were saved was due to 
the fact that the half-famished troops naturally turned 
to it. Murder and outrage went hand in hand with 
pillage. Many inhabitants were massacred by the 
soldiery, maddened with licence and intoxicating liquor ; 
many others perished in the flames of their homes, or in 
attempting to escape from them. The miscellaneous 
horde of female camp-followers behaved as badly as the 
men. Paymaster Duverger relates how he knocked 
down a ruffianly cantiniere who was robbing a sick and 
helpless Russian lady. There is unhappily evidence that 
many of the officers set a disgraceful example. Some 
pillaged openly ; others made a levy upon the plunder 
of their men. The Guards had the best opportunities and 
gained an unenviable pre-eminence in misconduct. 
Drunkenness was everywhere rife. The men of the 1st 
Corps were almost as bad as the Guards, and probably 
this carnival of licence was the event which contributed 
most to the destruction of their discipline early in the 
retreat. It is worthy of note that Ney's corps, which 
took little direct share in the sack, was the one which 
kept the best order amid the horrors of the retreat. 
Marshal Lefebvre was furious at the disorder in the 
Old Guard, and issued a severe order on the subject. 

On the 19th the conflagration began to die away, 
partly owing to the equinoctial rains, and on the 20th 
Napoleon returned to the Kremlin. Useless efforts were 
made to induce the inhabitants to return to the ruined 

Hy permission oj the Berlin Photographic Co. 

From the picture by Verestchagin 


city, and the peasants to bring their produce to market. 
For payment Napoleon had provided a supply of forged 
Russian paper rubles ; but opportunities for uttering 
them were not forthcoming, though some were distributed 
to the surviving inhabitants and to charitable institutions. 
A few merchants and tradesmen accepted office under 
the French, but after the destruction of Moscow the 
Russians who entertained any feeling towards the in- 
vaders but that of bitter hatred were few indeed. 

On evacuating Moscow the Russian army made two 
leisurely marches on the Kolomna road to where it 
crossed the Moskva, about 20 miles from the capital. 
Kutuzov appears at first to have intended to continue 
his march to Kolomna ; but a conference with the 
Intendant-General Lanskoi convinced him that there 
would be difficulty in diverting the line of supply, and he 
decided to manoeuvre towards Kaluga. On the 17th, 
therefore, leaving Raievski's corps to cover the rear, he 
turned westward, and marched along the Pakhra, a 
rivulet which here joins the Moskva, until he reached 
the Moscow-Kaluga road. On the 21st he took up a 
position behind the Pakhra, with an advance-guard, 
composed of the 8th Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division, 
under Miloradovich at Desna, only some 10 miles from 
Moscow. At the same time Dorokhov, with the hussars 
of Yelisabetgrad, the Dragoons of the Guard, and three 
regiments of Cossacks, was detached towards Mozhaisk. 
This last movement was perhaps premature, since it 
gave Napoleon early warning of an intention to operate 
against his communications. 

During the night of the 15th the glare of a vast con- 
flagration had reddened the sky to the north-west. All 
through the next four days the bivouacs of the Russians 
were illuminated by the flames of their burning " Mother 
City," while by day dense banks of smoke lay upon the 
horizon, and charred fragments were frequently borne 
by the fierce gales among their marching files. The 


effect upon the soldiers may perhaps better be imagined 
than described. Whether the destruction of Moscow 
were deliberate or accidental in its origin, it kindled in 
the Russian army a flame of vengeful desire that endured 
until it marched triumphantly into Paris in 1814. 

Murat, with his advanced guard, strengthened by 
Claparede's division, and supported by Poniatowski, was 
following the Russians. At the Pakhra he lost touch, and 
not until the 23rd was the true direction of Kutuzov's 
march ascertained and followed up, Raievski retiring on 
the main army. Napoleon apparently did not believe 
that Kutuzov's whole force was to the south of Moscow 
— at all events he adopted a dangerous half-measure, 
which might have resulted in disaster. Murat was to 
press the Russians' right, while a column under Bessieres 
marched from Moscow against their front. Bessieres' 
force comprised the infantry division of Friederichs 
(vice Desaix) , now increased by the 33rd Leger, a brigade 
of light cavalry, Colbert's Lancers, and the 3rd Cavalry 
Corps detached from Murat. Its strength cannot have 
exceeded 11,000 men, while Murat certainly had not 
more than 25,000. Barclay and Bennigsen urged an 
attack, and it is clear that Murat must have been de- 
stroyed, or forced to retreat in haste. The cautious 
Kutuzov, however, inferred that Bessieres was merely 
Napoleon's advance-guard — as a fact the Emperor did 
on the 28th issue orders for a general advance on the 
Pakhra. As Kutuzov envisaged the situation, he would 
have the whole Grande Armee, enormously superior in 
regular troops, upon his own weakened forces. The 
superior condition of his cavalry and artillery could 
scarcely be relied upon to give him more than a doubtful 
success. On the other hand, every day would bring the 
winter nearer and ensure the steady increase of the 
Russian numbers. He accordingly decided to retire 
towards Kaluga. The 4th Corps was detailed to strengthen 
Raievski, and Miloradovich took command of the rear- 


guard. On the 27th there was a brisk encounter of 
cavalry on the Pakhra. On the 29th another engage- 
ment took place at Czerikovo. Poniatowski's infantry 
were checked ; General Ferrier was wounded and taken, 
and the advantage was, on the whole, with Miloradovich, 
who retired very slowly, contesting every mile of country. 
On October 2nd the main Russian army reached 
Tarutino on the Nara, some 50 miles from Moscow, and 
took up a position, to protect which entrenchments were 
immediately commenced. Next day Sebastiani, always 
unlucky, experienced a slight check near Voronovo, but 
when Murat's main column began to arrive Miloradovich 
retreated to Spas Kuplia, 10 miles north of Tarutino. 
The 4th and 7th Corps were drawn back towards the 
main army, covered by the 8th and most of the cavalry. 
Early on the 4th Murat and Poniatowski surprised the 
Russians. Spas Kuplia was carried and the 8th Corps 
driven back behind the Chernishnia rivulet, half-way to 
Tarutino. Konovnitzin, with whom was Sir Robert 
Wilson, was nearly captured, but he rode out of the 
danger-zone, his night-cap, in which he had been sur- 
prised, showing under his cocked hat, puffing coolly at 
his pipe all the time. So Lowenstern describes the scene. 
The 8th Corps rallied and held firm upon the Chernishnia 
until night, and eventually retired across the Nara to 
Tarutino. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Cavalry Divisions (the 
first two now amalgamated) and some Cossacks remained 
in observation of the French north of the Nara. Murat's 
offensive power had exhausted itself, and he halted, dis- 
posing the bulk of his force along the Chernishnia, with 
his advance troops at the village of Vinkovo. 

Meanwhile the presence of Dorokhov south-east of 
Moscow had caused Napoleon to send some twenty miles 
on the road to Mozhaisk, Broussier's infantry division, 
the light cavalry of the 4th Corps, and the Dragoons and 
Chasseurs of the Guard. This for the moment relieved 
the road to Mozhaisk, but the whole route to Smolensk 


was infested by Cossacks ; and Napoleon was obliged to 
issue an order that no body of troops less than 1500 
strong was to be risked along it. Kutuzov's withdrawal to 
Tarutino seems for a short time to have improved matters 
near Moscow. Murat, with the reserve cavalry, the bulk 
of the light horse of the 1st and 3rd Corps, the 5th Corps, 
Dufour's and Claparede's divisions, remained on the 
Chernishnia. Broussier was stationed about 9 miles 
west of Moscow ; Friederichs on the Pakhra ; the Guard 
Cavalry returned to Moscow. Foraging detachments were 
despatched over the surrounding country to gather in 
food and fodder — with poor results — and in this manner 
a fortnight passed away. 


FOR almost a month after Napoleon's return to 
Moscow on September 20th, the main French 
army lay almost inactive about the city. The 
Emperor's anxieties on the score of supplies had been to 
some extent relieved by the quantities of food and 
ammunition captured. He says himself in a letter to 
Lariboissiere, the Chief of Artillery, that he has taken 
300,000 pounds of powder, and an equal amount of 
sulphur and saltpetre, besides an immense number of 
cannon-balls and 2,000,000 cartridges. It can scarcely 
be imagined that, however much the habit of lying had 
become ingrained in him, he would wilfully mislead the 
man whom, most of all, it was necessary to furnish with 
correct information. 

A number of cannon were captured, but all practically 
useless. The Kremlin, in fact, was and is a museum of 
ancient weapons, mostly preserved as trophies of Russia's 
victories over her enemies. Among them now are 
hundreds of the guns of the Napoleonic Grande Armee of 
1812. The cannon had no carriages, but about twenty of 
them were mounted by the French artillerymen on the 
walls of the ancient citadel. The captures of ammunition 
were of extreme value. Napoleon exultantly declared 
that he could fight four battles of the magni tude of 

^-J^eageTiiowever, was seriously deficient. The cavalry 
and artillery of the Guard, which received supplies in 
advance of the other corps, remained in fair condition, 
r 241 


but that of the rest of the army rapidly deteriorated. 
The horses died in great numbers. At the beginning of 
October De Chambray estimates that already 4000 
troopers were dismounted. The misery in the advance- 
guard was great ; breadstuff s could hardly be obtained, 
and the men lived chiefly upon horse-flesh. 

In Moscow matters were by no means satisfactory. 
The troops had indeed shelter and food ; but these 
advantages were dearly bought at the price of a fatal 
relaxation in discipline. The privileged Guards were 
bad offenders, and Napoleon himself had at last to com- 
plain of their misconduct. The 1st Corps was little 
better. The 3rd and 4th Corps were mostly outside the 
city. They lived chiefly from hand to mouth as before, 
and though a considerable amount of flour had been 
warehoused at Moscow Napoleon would not permit it to 
be issued, even when Berthier reported Pino's division as 
being completely destitute. No issue was made of cloth- 
ing material until October 17th, nor were any prepara- 
tions made for rough-shoeing the horses. In the general 
relaxation of discipline little was done by the men them- 
selves. In the face of proven facts such as these the 
statements as to Napoleon's unerring and all-pervading 
foresight and activity, made even by respectable witnesses 
such as Rapp and Fain, make somewhat foolish reading. 

In a sense, indeed, Napoleon did provide for much — 
that is, he issued orders which had they been at all 
applicable to the situation might have effected a great 
deal. Such an order was that for the provision of hand- 
mills for the troops. The need for them had been apparent 
during the advance, and had they been provided earlier 
they would doubtless have been invaluable. As it was 
the first convoy of them only came to hand during the 
retreat, when they were useless. 

Others of the Imperial orders were simply incapable 
of execution. One of them, for example, gives directions 
for exploring the country for two or three leagues on 

i : 

a, o 


1/3 £— I 


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t/> t/3 



each side of the highway so as to find parallel roads 
passing by villages and cultivated tracts. It would have 
been extremely difficult to find such roads in fertile and 
well-peopled Germany, and to expect to discover them in 
Russia was merely absurd. As a fact, had they existed, 
the country was laid waste for a breadth of forty or fifty 
miles by the destructive passage of two great armies. 
The only criticisms that can be made in reading this 
order is that Napoleon's intellect was either failing or so 
affected by pride and over-confidence as to be fatally 

Yet in spite of his fatal optimism Napoleon was 
growing uneasy. On his return to Moscow he induced 
Tutulmin, the director of the Foundling Hospital, to be 
the bearer of a letter to Alexander. It was a diplomatic 
document after Napoleon's fashion, compounded of 
blandishments and threats ; a characteristic touch is 
the careful detailing of the war material which has been 
captured. The Tzar would not deign to reply. Napoleon 
waited for a fortnight and then sent General Lauriston to 
endeavour to open negotiations with Kutuzov. 

However, gloomy as the prospect might appear to 
intelligent observers, the bulk of the army was at rest, 
and, save in the vital matter of horses, increasing in 
strength. During the latter half of September there 
entered Moscow Laborde's division, the 1st battalion of 
Hesse-Darmstadt Guards, three battalions of the 33rd 
Leger, and several regiments de marche — in all some 
10,000 infantry and over 4000 cavalry. In the first half 
of October there arrived nearly 17,000 men — regiments 
de marche, mostly infantry, and the battalions which 
had been left in garrison at Orsha, Dorogobuzh, Viasma, 
and elsewhere. The muster rolls were also swelled by a 
certain number of convalescents. The fighting strength 
of the 5th and 8th Corps, which were harassed by constant 
skirmishing, remained stationary or declined ; and the 
number of mounted horsemen steadily dwindled. But 


in the 1st and 3rd Corps there was a steady increase in 
the numbers of the infantry and artillery. Reinforce- 
ments of artillery also arrived ; there were, indeed, 
more guns in Moscow than the enfeebled teams could 

The movements of the French main army during this 
period of comparative quiescence were not very important. 
Eugene early in October pushed an advance-guard to 
Dmitrov, some miles north of Moscow, while Ney moved 
to Boghorodsk, about 25 miles eastward on the road to 
Vladimir. The Russian cavalry screen, under Winzin- 
gerode, gave back before the advance of the French 
columns, and there was little fighting. Ney ordered the 
construction of barracks for winter quarters at Bog- 
horodsk, but De Fezensac pessimistically remarks that 
the sham deceived nobody. Ney and Eugene were soon 
recalled to Moscow, and the entire army, except Murat's 
advance-guard, was concentrated there on the 15th. 

Meanwhile Murat, isolated on the Chernishnia at a 
distance of nearly 50 miles from the main army, and 
with a vastly superior army in his front, was in a position 
of great danger. The peril was aggravated by the 
scantiness of supplies and by the lack of forage, which 
was steadily killing the overworked horses. Skirmishing 
was continually taking place, with general ill fortune to 
the invaders. Foraging parties had to be pushed farther 
and farther afield, and needed larger and larger escorts to 
protect them against the enterprising regular and ir- 
regular cavalry of the Russians. On one occasion a 
foraging party of Dragoons of the Guard, under Major 
Marthod, accompanied by a detachment of the 33rd 
Leger, was attacked and cut up. On October 9th Colonel 
Kudachev with two regiments of Cossacks made a 
successful attack upon a large foraging party, and 
carried off 200 prisoners. Similar skirmishes were con- 
tinually occurring. On October 10th Dorokhov, who had 
been reinforced by five battalions and some more cavalry 


and artillery, stormed Vereia, killing or capturing its 
garrison of 500 Westphalians, and thus establishing him- 
self dangerously near the Moscow-Smolensk road. 

It has been seen that on October 4th Kutuzov had 
begun to entrench himself at Tarutino. Bennigsen 
criticises the position severely. The Nara in its front 
was everywhere fordable, and on the left there were 
some unoccupied heights which might be seized by an 
assailant. However, as matters went, there was little 
fear of an immediate attack, and the Russians were so 
strong in cavalry that they could obtain early warning 
of any move of the French from Moscow. 

Soon after reaching Tarutino Barclay left the army. 
He had been deeply wounded by the rancorous attacks 
made upon him by the ultra Russians, and his relations 
with Bennigsen were very strained. Kutuzov had treated 
him with great respect, and after Borodino had given 
him the chief command of both Russian armies. But 
when a supreme commander is present at the head- 
quarters of an army difficulties are certain to arise. In 
1864 the presence of General Grant with Meade's army of 
the Potomac did not make for unity of command, though 
both officers were men of the finest character. Barclay 
soon found his position intolerable, and resigned. He 
was bitterly hurt, and told Clausewitz, who had just been 
appointed to a post on Wittgenstein's staff, that he 
might thank heaven that he was well out of it. It is 
impossible not to sympathise with him, and at the same 
time not difficult to see that his departure made for 
unity of command. Whether Kutuzov was the right 
man for the post of commander-in-chief is another 
question. Barclay was abominably ill-treated and 
insulted by the populace on his way to St. Petersburg, but 
Alexander never lost confidence in him, and he emerged 
from his retirement in 1813 to take command of the 
Russian armies in Germany. His departure occasioned a 
show at least of regret among the officers of the army, 


many of whom perhaps felt conscience-stricken at the 
memory of ill-conditioned murmuring and mutiny. Most 
of the generals came to bid him farewell ; and Yermolov, 
who had been his worst and most treacherous enemy, 
actually wept — an episode to which allusion has elsewhere 
been made. 

On the 24th of September, at a mansion on the road 
to Vladimir, Bagration died. It is probable that travelling 
on the bad Russian roads had brought on gangrene. 
On his death-bed he was visited by Wilson, who was 
returning from his visit to Alexander. The Tzar, very 
wisely, had judged it best to overlook the insubordination 
of the generals, and had sent by Wilson the strongest 
assurances of his determination to continue the resistance. 
He would, he said, sooner let his beard grow to the 
waist and eat potatoes in Siberia, than permit any 
negotiations so long as an armed Frenchman remained 
in Russia. The language may perhaps be thought a 
little high-flown, but it possesses dignity in that it was 
the expression of the firm resolution of the united 
Russian nation. To the dying soldier Wilson repeated 
the brave words of the Tzar. Bagration pressed his hand 
convulsively. " Dear general," he said, " you have made 
me die happy, for now Russia will assuredly not be 
dishonoured. Accipio solatium mortis." So passes from 
the scene the fine Georgian soldier whose life had been 
spent in faithful service to his adopted country. Wilson 
eulogises his good qualities, the kindness and gracious- 
ness which his fiery temper perhaps at times concealed, 
his generosity and chivalrous courage. Wilson was his 
devoted admirer — the two had much in common. But 
in sober fact Bagration, whatever his faults, had ever 
proved himself a worthy descendant of the warrior-kings 
of the Bagratid line ; and having adopted Russia, the 
steady protector of the Caucasian Christians, as his 
country, he had served her faithfully to the end. It is 
difficult not to feel a sense of decline in passing from 


Barclay, the simple, devoted servant of his country, and 
Bagration, the chivalrous descendant of kings, to the 
caution and cunning of the pleasure-loving old aristocrat 
Kutuzov, and the hardly disguised self-seeking of the 
soldier of fortune Bennigsen. 

Kutuzov, from the field of Borodino, had sent a first 
brief and hasty despatch stating that he had held his 
own and captured some guns. As has been seen, the 
statement was only true in a general sense, since the 
Russian troops had certainly been driven back a short 
distance. This report was perhaps hurriedly penned in 
the exultation of finding that he had fought the terrible 
conqueror for a long day without real ill-success. A 
second despatch told the truth or something near it, 
describing the battle as a drawn one — which it tactically 
was — estimating Napoleon's loss as probably the greater, 
and insisting upon the necessity of retreating in order to 
reorganise after the tremendous losses. A third despatch 
attributed the chief merit of the balanced success of the 
day to Barclay and Bennigsen. Alexander did not 
publish the second despatch — whether wisely or not it is 
difficult for an Englishman to judge. Kutuzov was 
promoted Field Marshal, and received a grant of 100,000 
rubles. Barclay was decorated with the order of St. 
George (2nd Class), and Bennigsen with that of St. 
Vladimir (1st Class). Bagration, who wore all the Orders 
of Russia, received a grant of 50,000 rubles. Miloradovich, 
Dokhturov, Ostermann, and Raievski received the order 
of St. Alexander Nevski. Each soldier was awarded a 
gratuity of 5 rubles — which, it may be hoped, was paid 
in silver, not in the depreciated paper currency. 

When in the midst of announcements of victory and 
of rewards the news arrived that Moscow had been 
abandoned, the discouragement was naturally great. In 
the army itself Kutuzov certainly felt very dubious of 
success. At St. Petersburg the state archives were sent 
into the interior, and the fleet was sent to winter in 


England. The Empress Dowager, the Grand Duke 
Constantine, and the Grand Chancellor Rumiantzev, 
were strongly in favour of peace ; but neither domestic 
nor political pressure, nor public alarm, appear to have 
shaken for a moment the stern resolution of the commonly 
yielding, sensitive, and dreamy Tzar. 

Alexander's reply to the fall of Moscow was a proclama- 
tion to his people calling upon them to rise superior to 
the loss, and to overwhelm the invaders, whose position 
was painted in colours perhaps darker than the reality. 
Preparations for continuing the war were energetically 
pushed forward. Count Lieven was despatched as am- 
bassador to London, and with an assurance of Alexander's 
immovable determination to continue the struggle at all 
hazards. For the present he asked nothing but munitions 
of war. Later, when he had saved Russia, he intended 
to do his best to free Europe from French domination, 
when he hoped that Britain would not be sparing of her 
wealth. At this moment, be it remembered, Napoleon 
was encamped among the ruins of the sacred capital of 

Meanwhile at Tarutino the reorganisation of the 
Russian army was being energetically proceeded with. 
The man immediately responsible for it, who justly 
received the major part of the credit, was Konovnitzin, 
who has already been repeatedly met with in his country's 
battles. Konovnitzin was a strong adherent and admirer 
of Barclay, and seems to have possessed his chief's 
virtues of modesty and devotion to duty. 

Borodino and the subsequent actions had grievously 
shattered all the regiments, and some had been practically 
destroyed. These were either dissolved or sent back into 
the interior to reform ; the combined Grenadier battalions 
were broken up and distributed ; and the militia and new 
recruits then drafted in. The experienced Russian 
generals did not make the mistake committed by the 
leaders of the Spanish uprising in 1808-1809 and swamp 


the battalions with raw levies. Only the picked men who 
had received some training were sparingly introduced 
among the war-seasoned soldiers. Even so Kutuzov was 
very distrustful of his infantry. 

Horsemen cannot be trained so easily as foot-soldiers, 
and the Russian cavalry could not be greatly increased 
in strength. Such reinforcements as it received must 
have consisted of small drafts and rejoining convalescents. 
It included the same regiments as had fought at Borodino, 
but all were in a greatly reduced condition. The men, 
however, were in high heart and the horses in excellent 
condition. The artillery was also in admirable order. 

Alexander had made an appeal to the loyalty of the 
Don Cossacks, which was seconded by the great personal 
influence of Platov. By the middle of October there 
were present in the Moscow theatre of war some fifty 
regiments of irregular horsemen. 

Reorganisation and steady reinforcement had their 
effect. The numerical strength of the Russian army at 
Tarutino began to rise at once, and its efficiency steadily 
increased. The number of battalions had fallen to 147 
by October 18th, but they had all been brought up to an 
average strength of over 500 bayonets, except those of 
the Guard, which, having no depots at hand, were rather 
weaker. By October 23 the strength of the Russian 
Grand Army, including its detachments, had risen to 
105,000 regulars, including 12,000 cavalry, and nearly 
20,000 Cossacks, with an artillery train of some 650 
guns excellently appointed and horsed. 

Kutuzov made certain changes in the organisation. 
The entire regular cavalry was massed in four unequal 
" Corps," one of which consisted of Cuirassiers. 
Lieutenant-General Prince Golitzin I received the com- 
mand of the Cuirassier Corps, and the 1st and 3rd were 
given to Major-Generals Baron Muller Zakomelski and 
Vassilchikov respectively. Baron Korff continued to 
command the 2nd, which was increased to 8 regiments 


of Dragoons, and 1 or 2 of light cavalry. The various 
army corps still retained their old leaders, except the 3rd, 
which was now commanded by Strogonov. 

At the same time some changes were made in the higher 
commands. Miloradovich practically took the place of 
Bagration — by no means unworthily — while General 
Tormazov was called from the west to succeed Barclay. 

Strategically the army was organised by Kutuzov 
into an advanced guard, under Miloradovich, a Corps de 
Bataille, under Tormazov, six Flying Columns, and six 
Cossack detachments. The advanced guard included the 
2nd and 4th Army Corps, the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry 
" Corps," and 4 regiments of Cossacks. The Corps de 
Bataille consisted of the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Army 
Corps, and Golitzin's and Muller-Zakomelski's cavalry. 
The Flying Columns were : (1) Platov's, comprising 13 
regiments of Cossacks, 1 of light infantry, and a horse 
battery ; (2) Winzingerode's, of 1 regiment of Hussars, 
1 of Dragoons, 7 of Cossacks, and a battery, observing 
Moscow on the north ; (3) Dorokhov's, observing 
Mozhaisk, ultimately increased by detachments to 5 
battalions, 16 squadrons, a battery, and some Cossacks ; 
(4) Orlov-Denisov's, consisting of 6 regiments of Cossacks 
and 6 guns ; (5) Karpov's, comprising 7 regiments of 
Cossacks; and (6) that of Major-General Count Ozharovski, 
composed of 4 regiments of Cossacks, 1 of Hussars, a 
regiment of light infantry, and 6 guns. The Cossack 
detachments which infested the Moscow-Smolensk road, 
were those of Colonel Kaisarov (3 regiments), Colonel 
Prince Kudachev (2 regiments), Colonel Yefremov (2 
regiments), Lieutenant-Colonel Davidov (2 regiments), 
Captain Seslavin (1 regiment), and Captain Figner (1 

The Russian army at Tarutino experienced little or no 
privation. Supplies of food were plentiful. Forage after 
a time grew scarce in the immediate neighbourhood, and 
it was necessary to send to some distance to obtain it, 


but the horses remained in excellent condition. Lowen- 
stern says that the army had never fared better ; it was 
even possible to obtain luxuries from the merchants who 
visited the camp. Dry fuel alone was lacking. To obtain 
it the villages within the Russian lines were almost 
entirely demolished. 

While making a show of preparations for the fortifica- 
tion and provisioning of Moscow the French Emperor, 
on October 4, sent his aide-de-camp, General Lauriston, 
who had been Ambassador at St. Petersburg before the 
war, on a mission to Kutuzov. Lauriston's real object 
was to ascertain the chances of peace. It was certain 
that his mission could have no success. Apart from the 
firm resolve of the Tzar the generals at Tarutino were 
bitterly determined, and kept a close watch upon their 
commander-in-chief. Kutuzov consented to receive 
Lauriston ; and thereupon his subordinates requested 
Wilson to inform him that if he conferred privately with 
Lauriston he would be deposed from the command. 
Kutuzov himself, not very confident of the ability of his 
army to beat Napoleon's, persisted in his determination 
to receive Lauriston, but consented to do so publicly in 
the first instance. He then had a private conversation 
with the French general, of which he afterwards gave an 
account to Count Langeron. He ultimately consented 
to pass on a letter brought by Lauriston to St. Peters- 
burg ; but declared that he had no power to conclude an 

The successes of Schwarzenberg and St. Cyr appeared 
to make the French line of communications fairly safe, 
and the calling up of Victor's 9th Corps to Smolensk was 
an additional measure of security. The 9th Corps 
crossed the frontier on September 3. It was increased 
by the addition of four German regiments to a strength 
°f 33>5 00 men. Victor left Coutard's German brigade at 
Vilna, and with the rest of the corps marched for Smolensk, 
where he arrived on September 27. Napoleon had ap- 


pointed Comte Baraguay d'Hilliers Governor-General 
of the province of Smolensk, but he could do little to 
collect supplies and keep the roads clear. The country 
was infested by small parties of Cossacks and of armed 
peasantry on the one hand, and on the other by numbers 
of stragglers, disbanded troops and marauders belonging 
to the invading army. 

Until the arrival of the 9th Corps troops were entirely 
lacking wherewith to suppress the disorder, and it will 
soon be seen that Victor could make but a brief stay at 
Smolensk. Baraguay d'Hilliers, worried and distracted 
by Napoleon's angry complaints, gave his master the 
facts of the situation in two letters, which enable us to 
appreciate the precise state of things in rear of the 
Grande Armee. 

The armed peasants and Cossack detachments checked 
foraging operations and cut off detachments. At 
Smolensk, indeed, there was a strong garrison. A 
provisional administration had been organised, on paper, 
under the superintendence of M. de Villeblanche ; but 
the town was ruined and nearly deserted. General 
Charpentier could organise strong foraging parties, but 
had no artisans to construct barracks and bakeries, or to 
manufacture clothing and equipment. From Smolensk 
to Gzhatsk there was hardly any protection for the road. 
Baraguay d'Hilliers declared that, after providing for the 
necessary garrisons of the posts, he could dispose of only 
600 men, in three detachments, for police and foraging 
operations on a line of some 200 miles ! As to establishing 
markets as Napoleon ordered, he frankly exposed the 
utter absurdity of the idea. For removing wounded and 
forwarding supplies there were not a fifth of the vehicles 

Detachments on the march to Moscow straggled for 
many miles north and south of the high-road in order to 
forage, and it was impossible to keep them in hand. One 
officer, in charge of a convoy, reported that his escorts 


Commander of the 9th French Army Corps 
From the painting by Gros at Versailles 

A. Rischgitz 


melted away one after another ; and he entered Moscow 
alone ! The marauders committed nameless atrocities, 
which amply explain and to some extent justify the 
terrible retaliations of the peasants during the retreat. 
It is an ungrateful task to allude to these horrors, but 
one hideous incident given by Lowenstern must be 
mentioned, if only to afford a proper impression of what 
a state of warfare in Napoleonic days implied. 

Among the Russian leaders of irregulars Captain 
Figner early acquired a terrible reputation for blood- 
thirsty cruelty towards his French and Polish foes, to 
whom he gave no quarter in battle, and whom, when 
captured, he massacred without pity. His savagery was 
strongly reprobated in the Russian army, except in the 
case of a number of fierce spirits whom the sufferings of 
their country had maddened. Even the wild irregulars 
looked askance at Figner ; and for the execution of his 
savage orders he could not always rely upon them. 

Figner himself declared that he acted from conscientious 
motives. While on one of his expeditions he surprised a 
marauding party — evidently consisting of Frenchmen 
and Poles — in a village which they had sacked. In 
the church they had penned a number of women and 
girls, and outraged and tortured them with horrible 
barbarity, crucifying them about the building — partly in 
order the more easily to gratify their brutal lust, partly 
no doubt from sheer love of cruelty. Into this hideous 
orgy burst Figner and his Cossacks. Most of the ravishers 
were captured. The unhappy victims — such of them as 
survived — were rescued ; and there and then, before the 
desecrated altar, the Russian leader swore a solemn oath 
never to spare a Frenchman. He shut his prisoners up 
in the church and fired it over them ; and thereafter, 
until he was killed in the following year, Frenchmen 
were to him but as vermin to be exterminated. It is 
futile to comment upon the moral ethics of his deter- 
mination. It is only evident that in Russia, as in Spain, 


the brutality and lust of the French conquerors sowed 
the seeds of a terrible harvest of vengeance. 

In spite of the disorder in Napoleon's rear there is no 
doubt that the French numbers rose steadily during the 
halt. Presumably the stragglers therefore — or such of 
them as survived the Cossacks and armed peasants — 
drifted in eventually. But it is hardly necessary to 
point out that such a method — or lack of method — of 
marching was the worst possible preparation for a 
retreat in which strict discipline and careful order would 
be before everything necessary. 

What Napoleon's own plans were is extremely doubtful. 
The troops generally anticipated that they would winter 
in Moscow — but this of course implies nothing. Count 
Daru certainly suggested doing so, positively stating that 
to his knowledge the supplies were sufficient and shelter 
ample. But on the other hand the lines of communication 
were already seriously threatened, and though the army 
in Moscow might have been preserved it must have lost 
most of its horses, and Napoleon would have been cut 
off from France for several months. 

The Emperor is credited by Fain with the intention of 
advancing upon St. Petersburg. This project was a most 
extraordinary one, and it passes human comprehension 
how Napoleon could have imagined it. It is useless to 
give it in detail. The essential part is that the army is 
to march upon Velikii Luki, about 90 miles north-east of 
Polotsk, and 300 from Moscow, through a fertile country 
(it is actually quite the reverse), and thus threaten St. 
Petersburg — 200 miles farther on, over barren and 
sparsely-peopled country. The time allowed for accom- 
plishing the movement appears to be about fifteen days ! 
Farther comment is surely unnecessary. 

Clausewitz considers that Napoleon must always have 
intended to retreat by the direct road to Smolensk, the 
only one in any sense guarded and furnished with maga- 
zines. On the Kaluga road, he says, the army would have 


starved within a week. He therefore infers that in 
marching upon Kaluga, as he eventually did, Napoleon 
merely intended to manoeuvre or push Kutuzov out of 
the way. 

The facts, of course, — which Clausewitz may not at 
the time have known accurately — were that the country 
along the Smolensk- Viasma-Moscow road was absolutely 
devastated, that forage could not be obtained upon it, 
while farther south matters were better ; and that east 
of Smolensk there were practically no magazines. 

Jomini is of opinion that Napoleon would have done 
best to retreat upon Vitebsk. The country, however, 
was poor and thinly peopled, and the roads were very 
bad ; the only advantage of the plan was that the 
army would have gained a considerable start of Kutuzov. 

Finally, there was the design of retiring by Kaluga 
on Smolensk. The roads were bad, but probably better 
than those on the north, since there were upon them some 
considerable towns. The country was tolerably fertile 
and — for Russia — fairly well peopled ; there were, 
besides, magazines at Kaluga and elsewhere which might 
be captured. Further, there was the opportunity of 
destroying the factories of arms and ammunition at 

How long Napoleon would have remained at Moscow 
is doubtful. His orders during October for the evacuation 
of the hospitals show that he meditated departure ; but 
he still waited, hoping against hope that the stubborn 
Tzar would at length give way, until on October 18th 
came the news that Kutuzov had taken the offensive. 

Kutuzov himself appears not to have had very much 
confidence in the solidity and ability to manoeuvre of 
his army. Murat's position, however, was such as to 
tempt even a cautious commander ; and Kutuzov gave 
way to the energetic representations of Bennigsen and 
Toll. An attack was fixed for October 17th, but bad staff 
arrangements compelled it to be postponed until the 18th. 


Bennigsen gives no reasons. Bogdanovich and Lowen- 
stern both blame Yermolov. Lowenstern says that 
recalling the horses from their distant foraging grounds 
caused great delay and that Yermolov did not inform 
General Baron Lowenstern, the artillery commander, in 

The Nara, flowing from the west, turns sharply to the 
southward some 5 miles north of Tarutino ; and soon 
after is joined on the left by the Chernishnia rivulet. 
Close to Tarutino it again turns abruptly eastward. The 
road from Kaluga runs northward through Tarutino for 
nearly 5 miles to Vinkovo, a village about 2 miles from 
the mouth of the Chernishnia, and then proceeds for 
5 miles to Spas-Kuplia, where it passes between two 

Murat's line stretched from the confluence of the 
Chernishnia with the Nara to the hamlet of Teterinka, 
some 5 miles to the westward, and about 4 south of 
Spas-Kuplia. Vinkovo, which lay south of the Cher- 
nishnia, was occupied by Claparede's Poles, supported 
by the 3rd Cavalry Corps, under General St. Germain, 
and a division of the 1st. To the left rear of Vinkovo lay 
Dufour's division, with the rest of Nansouty's cavalry 
corps on its left. Still farther to the south of the Cher- 
nishnia stood Poniatowski's corps, with Sebastiani's 
cavalry on the extreme left. Latour-Maubourg was 
watching the Nara on the right rear. Murat's whole 
strength hardly exceeded 25,000 men ; he was encum- 
bered rather than supported by about 180 miserably 
horsed guns ; and his 9000 or 10,000 cavalry were in a 
wretched state. 

The Russian plan contemplated a demonstration by 
part of the bulk of the army against Murat's extended 
front, while Bennigsen, with a force composed of the 
2nd, 3rd, and 4th Corps, Muller Zakomelski's cavalry, 
and 10 regiments of Cossacks under Orlov-Denisov, 
turned his left. Miloradovich was to move towards 

General position at moment when Murat's retreat began 


Vinkovo with Korffs and Vassilchikov's cavalry, while 
behind him the rest of the army debouched from Tarutino. 
Orlov-Denisov and Miiller Zakomelski fell, about 7 a.m. 
on the 18th, upon Sebastiani's bivouacs, while Baggo- 
hufwudt attacked the 5th Corps in front. His advance 
had been revealed by the growing light and some pre- 
mature shots, and the Poles were able to form and 
oppose a vigorous resistance. One of the first shots 
from their artillery killed Baggohufwudt, and his fall 
rather dashed some of his young troops, especially when 
the remains of the French Carabiniers, led by Murat 
himself, gallantly charged the 48th Russian Chasseurs. 
The Russian cavalry on the right, however, swept away 
Sebastiani, capturing most of his baggage and artillery, 
and pushed on towards Spas-Kuplia, which they occupied, 
thus cutting Murat's line of retreat. The position would 
have been critical had the Russian horsemen been sup- 
ported by infantry. The whole of the French line gave 
back in haste, but the Russian 2nd Corps, imposed upon 
by Murat's bold charge, and shaken by the fall of its 
leader, followed very cautiously. Ostermann-Tolstoi 
failed to advance with the necessary speed ; and Ben- 
nigsen thought himself obliged to hold back the 3rd 
Corps until the arrival of the 4th. The result was that 
the entire French army, in great disorder, indeed, and 
suffering considerably from the Russian artillery fire, 
succeeded in effecting its retreat. Orlov-Denisov and 
Miiller Zakomelski were obliged to abandon Spas-Kuplia 
as infantry came up; and the line of retreat was clear. 
Meanwhile Kutuzov was executing his part of the pro- 
gramme very slowly or not at all. Only Miloradovich's 
cavalry, supported by five infantry regiments, crossed 
the Chernishnia and pressed the rear of the retreating 
columns towards and through Spas-Kuplia, where the 
pursuit ceased. Murat retreated to Voronovo, where he 
rallied his shaken troops, while the Russian main body 
tranquilly returned to Tarutino. Miloradovich with the 


now formally constituted advance-guard was stationed 
at Vinkovo. 

The French returns, which are manifestly incomplete, 
show a loss of 2795 men, of whom 1151 were prisoners or 
missing. The bulk of the diminution was in the 5th 
Corps and Sebastiani's cavalry ; Claparede and Dufour 
were scarcely engaged. Two generals were killed and two 
wounded. The Russians claim to have lost only 502 
killed and wounded. They captured 37 guns, a standard, 
and a mass of baggage. 

Bennigsen was exasperated at Kutuzov's tardy and 
slight support, though his own conduct had not been too 
energetic, and the breach between them widened. It 
was already great, Kutuzov relying upon the retiring 
and hard-working Konovnitzin far more than on 

The Russian success at Vinkovo, incomplete as it was, 
none the less dealt a heavy blow to the already shaken 
morale of the Napoleonic army. 

As the period of Napoleon's evacuation of Moscow 
has now been reached, it appears necessary to survey 
the positions occupied by the various sections of the 
opposing forces. 

Dealing first with the invaders — 

The Imperial Guard, Grand Head-quarters, the Cavalry 
Reserve, and the bulk of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Army 
Corps were encamped, under Napoleon's personal com- 
mand, in the environs of Moscow. About Mozhaisk was 
the 8th Corps, under Junot, the total combatant strength 
of this, the original Grand or Central Army, including 
engineers, gendarmerie, etc., being nearly 125,000 men. 

At Viasma was a column of drafts under General 
Evers, which with the garrisons at Gzhatsk and elsewhere 
may be estimated at about 5000 men. 

About Smolensk there were the 129th and Illyrian 
regiments from Ney's corps, three 3rd battalions of the 
Vistula Legion, and some of the Hesse-Darmstadt Guards 


belonging to the Imperial Guard, a Mecklenburg regiment 
and a battalion of the 33rd Leger (1st Corps) ; a Polish 
cavalry regiment (5th Corps) ; and about 8000 men in 
regiments de marche — say 16,000 in all, including 1500 
cavalry under General Baraguay d'Hilliers. 

In the neighbourhood of Smolensk also was cantoned 
the 9th Corps, under Victor, some 26,000 strong. 

At Vitebsk and in its neighbourhood were a battalion 
of the 9th Corps and a few drafts — say 1000 men. 

Between Smolensk and Orsha there were in garrison 
perhaps 3000 men — drafts, convalescents, engineers, and 
Polish levies. 

At Mohilev were 1 infantry and 1 cavalry regiment of 
Dombrowski's division, about 1500 men. The rest of 
the division, about 5500 men with 20 guns, was spread 
to the south-westward. 

At Minsk and Borisov and scattered about the neigh- 
bourhood there were 2 weak French battalions, some 
depot troops of various nations, a weak Wiirttemberg 
infantry regiment, and 4 battalions and 4 squadrons of 
untrustworthy Lithuanian levies — less than 6000 in all, 
under General Bronikowski. At Slonim General Konopka 
was organising the new Lithuanian Lancer Regiment of 
the Guard, which with a few other levies may be estimated 
at 1000 men. 

Between Minsk and Kovno there were various depots, 
regiments de marche, and a number of Polish and Lithu- 
anian levies, totalling perhaps 14,000 men, and Coutard's 
brigade of the 9th Corps, 2500 strong. 

In Kurland and before Riga Macdonald's 10th Corps 
now numbered perhaps 26,000 men. 

In and about Polotsk lay the 2nd Corps, the remains 
of the infantry of the 6th, and Doumerc's Cuirassier 
Division — about 30,000 combatants — under Marshal St. 

Schwarzenberg had at Wengrow, Bielostok, and else- 
where about 37,000 men, comprising 22,000 Austrians, 


nearly 10,000 Saxons, and about 5000 Poles. Marching 
to join him were 5000 Austrians, and a French division 
(Durutte) of the nth Corps, 13,000 strong. 

At Konigsberg and in the neighbourhood was Loison's 
division of the nth Corps, 13,000 men, French, German, 
and Neapolitans. 

In addition there were in Poland and Prussia, in 
garrison or moving up to the front, about 21,000 men of 
various arms. 

The total force of the Napoleonic army, therefore, 
on Russian soil or about to move across the frontier was, 
in the middle of October, some 351,000 men. 

In Germany, for the most part along the line of the 
Oder, was the rest of the nth Corps, under Marshal 
Augereau. It consisted of two provisional divisions 
under Generals Heudelet and Lagrange, a Neapolitan 
division in Danzig under General d'Estrees, Cavaignac's 
cavalry brigade, and some detached troops, amounting, 
with artillery, to about 40,000 men ; besides perhaps 
27,000 drafts. Of these troops, 67,000 in all, about 55,000 
were on the Vistula at the close of the campaign. Adding 
these to the 351,000 troops already beyond that river the 
total of Napoleonic troops still bearing on Russia was 
406,000. As the aggregate employed during the cam- 
paign has been elsewhere estimated at 674,000, it results 
that 268,000 men had already disappeared from the 
fighting line. Some, no doubt, had returned home 
invalided, some had been taken by the Russians ; a 
certain number had no doubt fallen into good hands in 
the country and ultimately recovered from their injuries. 
But by far the larger number were already dead. 

To these 406,000 actual and prospective enemies 
Russia opposed the following forces : — 

At and near Tarutino and around Moscow, under Field- 
Marshal Prince Golenischev-Kutuzov, were 105,000 
regulars and 20,000 irregulars. Under Wittgenstein, 
near Polotsk, were 40,000 regulars, irregulars, and 


militia. Marching to reinforce Wittgenstein was Count 
Steingell with 10,000 men, almost all regulars. At Riga, 
under Essen I, there were perhaps 15,000 troops. 

Admiral Chichagov had under his general command 
about 70,000 men in all, including General Luder's 
division coming from Serbia. Ertel at Mozyr now had 
about 14,000, while Bobruisk was garrisoned by 6000. 
Finally, in small regular detachments, drafts of recruits 
and militia, and Cossacks, there were perhaps 30,000 men 
on the march to reinforce the various armies. The 
Russian total therefore was nearly 310,000 men. 


THE battle of Vinkovo put an abrupt end to any 
hopes which Napoleon may yet have cherished 
as to a speedy conclusion of peace. It is fairly 
obvious, however, that he had already made up his mind 
that Moscow must be abandoned. On October 14th orders 
were reiterated to evacuate the hospitals at Mozhaisk 
and elsewhere by the 20th. Junot was also directed to 
destroy arms which could not be carried away. Evers' 
column of reinforcement, which had already passed 
Viasma, was turned back to that town ; and other 
regiments de marche were ordered to remain at, or return 
to, Smolensk. 

The condition of the army needs careful consideration. 
Montholon, who may be regarded as speaking for his 
master, says that it was strengthened and revivified by 
its long rest, that it had twenty days' supply of food, 
that it was abundantly provided with ammunition. 

It is to be observed that this categorical apologia 
does not mention the vitally important matters of 
discipline, clothing, and horses. Of these something will 
presently be said. The points noted by Montholon may 
be discussed one by one. 

In the first place a distinction must be drawn between 
the troops in and about Moscow and those belonging to 
Murat's advance-guard. 

Of the former, it may be said that they were, as regards 
the men, in fair physical condition. Even here, however, 
a distinction must be made. The Guards and the 1st 



Corps had been lying inactive for four weeks. They had 
had the benefit of the best that Moscow could afford ; and 
certainly should have been in first-rate condition. But, 
on the other hand, they had been living freely, upon food 
not always as nourishing as attractive to rough men, and 
upon the wines and spirits which abounded in the palaces 
and warehouses, and were probably hardly prepared for 
new and terrible hardships. The 3rd and 4th Corps had 
been generally encamped outside Moscow, had obtained 
little by pillage, and had been uselessly fatigued and 
overworked by constant foraging and outpost work. Yet 
it is possible that these unpampered men were really 
better prepared for what lay before them than the 
Guards and Davout's corps. 

As to the question of food supplies it is difficult to 
express an opinion. It is certain that food was not 
lacking, and probably the troops might have carried with 
them twenty days' rations had discipline been good and 
transport abundant. As it is, it is clear that the army 
was short of supplies within ten days of its departure from_ 

There is no reason to doubt Napoleon's statement 
that the supply of ammunition was abundant. 

Napoleon having, according to his custom, dealt 
entirely with material matters, it may be well to follow 
in his footsteps before considering things moral. The 
evidence of survivors is all to the effect that the troops 
were badly and inadequately clothed. Except in so far 
as some of them were supplied from the pillage of Moscow 
the men had only the worn and tattered uniforms which 
had served them all through the advance. The footgear 
was much worn, and the underclothing in a deplorable 
condition. Bourgogne, a sergeant in the Young Guard — 
one of a favoured corps, therefore — speaks of wearing a 
shirt until it rotted upon him. Only on the 17th of October 
were leather and linen issued, and it was then too late to 
make up the material. 

Underwood &r Underivcod 

Built by the famous Tzar Ivan the Terrible in the latter half of the 16th century 


Whatever might be the state of the army's supplies it 
lacked transport for them. The__ horses we^ edying 
^teadil y from fatigue, sick ngj&jmd.. ahflEfi alQar^jrf 
JqdxL I'He state of the cavalry has been noticed, and the 
artillery and trains were naturally in equally bad con- 
dition. Napoleon refused to abandon any of his vast and 
wretchedly horsed artillery in order to lighten the dead 
weight which encumbered the march. It would have 
been wiser to leave behind a part of the enormous mass 
of ammunition and to fill up the artillery waggons with 
food or forage. The commander of the artillery of the 
Young Guard did do something of the kind, with good 
results, but for the most part the dread of Napoleon 
effectually hindered such common-sense action. The draft 
horses, in bad condition, and overloaded in any case, 
without considering non-military and unnecessary further 
additions, began to die at the very beginning of the 
retreat, and the artillery and trains were lost piecemeal. 
Much of what food and forage the army took with it was 
lost early, owing to the failure of the transport. 

One fact is curious and inexplicable. It might have 
been thought that the most strenuous exertions would 
have been put forth to provide the individual soldiers 
with plenty of breadstuffs, when the deficiency of the 
transport was well known. There is evidence that food 
was left in Moscow. De Fezensac states that he made a 
present of the flour which he could not carry away to 
some Muscovites whom he had fed during his stay in the 
city. The incident does honour to his humanity. Yet 
one wonders why he did not distribute it among his 
soldiers, who were ere long dying of want. It is clear that 
little food was carried by the soldiers themselves, and the 
reason for this is probably connected with the low morale 
of the army. 

A long course of excess of every kind had weakened such 
sense of honour as the bulk of the men possessed, and 
the scattered barracking necessitated by the destruction 


of the greater part of the city rendered the maintenance 
of order very difficult. So far as can be judged, constant 
drill was by no means a feature of the Napoleonic army, 
and inspections of kits were apparently often perfunctory. 
It is, at any rate, certain that they were so during 
the sojourn in Moscow. Haversacks and knapsacks, 
instead of being stored with necessaries, too often con- 
tained plunder. The officers either made no determined 
attempt to check the evil, or their efforts were without 
avail. It is probable that the former discreditable con- 
dition of affairs actually obtained. Brigandage was rife 
in the Napoleonic armies, and numbers of officers had 
their private vehicles laden with plunder. Generals were 
often no better. Napoleon himself added to the encum- 
brances of the army two convoys of spoils, one of gold and 
silver bullion, the presence of which may be justified, the 
other of objects of purely sentimental value, for which 
excuse can hardly be made. It was but another example 
of the paltry spirit which impelled Napoleon to desecrate 
the tomb of Frederick the Great. It is difficult to blame 
subordinate officers when their ruler and their generals 
set so evil an example, still less is it possible to find fault 
with the ignorant soldiery. Be this as it may, lack of 
discipline, fostered by a low sense of honour among the 
officers, and greed of plunder, was not the least of the 
causes of the destruction of the Grande Artnee. 

Finally, the pernicious practice of permitting the troops 
to march in disorder was soon to be productive of fatal 
consequences. Officers and men had grown so accustomed 
to it that its extent was probably not at first realised, and 
it soon became impossible to check it. The results were 
terrible. The worse element among the suffering troops 
had every opportunity for disbanding, and the Russian 
irregulars, who could achieve little against closed bodies 
of infantry, were able to commit immense havoc. 

Over and above all this the army was encumbered by 
a disproportionate throng of non-combatants. Besides 


the ordinary camp-followers, male and female, it has 
already been observed that there were with the army a 
number of persons — partly women — who should not have 
been permitted to accompany it. There were sick and 
wounded to the number of at least several thousands 
at the outset. The French colony at Moscow mostly fled 
with the army. Also a number of Russian prostitutes, 
and even a good many women and girls of better stamp 
— including some of the upper classes — accompanied men 
who had formed connections with them. 

The precise state of feeling in the army cannot be 
ascertained. There is no doubt that the struggle at 
Borodino had badly affected its morale, and the French 
troops at least with their quick intelligence must have 
looked forward to the future with dread. On the other 
hand, their natural light-heartedness and their belief 
in Napoleon probably sustained their spirits. The foreign 
element was, doubtless, even less hopeful. That the 
more reflective among the officers were filled with mis- 
giving is indubitable ; and there was much discourage- 
ment among the generals, many of whom, besides, were 
war- weary and yearned for rest. 

Thus, disorganised, with discipline shattered, ill 
clothed, ill supplied, deficient in transport but laden with 
useless plunder, encumbered with sick, wounded, and 
helpless non-combatants, and with demoralisation latent 
everywhere, the Grande Arrnee set out from Napoleon's 
Farthest to fight its way home. It is perhaps difficult 
to see things in their true light, every effort at so doing 
being naturally affected by knowledge of succeeding 
events. But the conclusion can hardly be avoided that 
the fate of the Grande Arrnee was already sealed, and that 
the shadow of impending disaster lay darkly upon its 
disorderly columns. 

The numbers of the Napoleonic host on leaving Moscow 
can only be approximately computed. The dates of the 
muster-rolls collected by De Chambray vary so much 


that they can only be taken as a general guide. There are 
also errors in the published tables, the 8th Corps having 
4916 infantry and artillery instead of 1916. De Chambray 
also, with all his merits, has the failing, natural enough 
indeed, and entirely excusable, of rather under-rating 
French numbers. An example of this may be seen in his 
estimate of Napoleon's strength at Borodino. 

On the whole, working upon the muster-rolls collected 
by De Chambray, the marching-out strength of Napoleon's 
army from Moscow would appear to have been approxi- 
mately as follows : — 









Grand Quarter-General . 





Imperial Guard ... 




1st Army Corps ... 




3rd ,, ,, 



1 1 , 500 

4th ,, „ 




5th ,, „ 




8th „ „ 




Cavalry Reserve ... 




Brigade of Dismounted Horsemen 



Artillery Parks, Engineeis, Pon- » 
tonniers, Gendarmerie, etc. ... 1 








The precise number of guns is not very certain, and to 
compute it is a somewhat unnecessary task. But, in- 
cluding the spare pieces in the reserve parks, and allowing 
for losses and reinforcements, the total must have been 
in the neighbourhood of 600. There were over 2000 
artillery vehicles, for the most part heavily laden and 
very inadequately horsed. 

The trains, already enormous, were now still further 
augmented by quantities of carts and carriages of every 
kind taken in Moscow, and requisitioned to transport food, 
wounded, refugees, and plunder. The bulk of the troops 
had made additions to their worn uniforms in the shape 


of garments of all kinds, often female ones, ransacked 
from the shops and warehouses. The effect must at the 
time have appeared fantastic and comical ; but the 
humour of the sight was soon to be quenched in horror. 

It has been seen that on the 14th orders had been 
issued which foreshadowed the evacuation of Moscow ; 
and on the 16th Napoleon wrote to Maret at Vilna, 
setting forth his intentions. He would march against 
and defeat Kutuzov, take Kaluga, and then act according 
to circumstances. He would probably eventually go 
into winter quarters between Minsk and Smolensk, as 
Moscow did not afford a satisfactory military position 
The Emperor made a final attempt to induce Kutuzov to 
open negotiations, but, of course, without result. He was 
in one of his worst moods, raging at his want of success, 
and the savage side of his nature displayed itself in all 
its nakedness in the disgraceful orders to blow up the 
Kremlin and its sacred and historic buildings. 

From Moscow two roads led to Kaluga. The western 
one went by the towns of Fominskoie, Borovsk and 
Maloyaroslavetz, that to the east by Voronovo and 
Tarutino. The eastern road is the more direct of the two, 
and is roughly the chord of the shallow arc of a circle 
described by the other. From Borovsk a cross-road leads 
by Vereia to Gzhatsk. From Maloyaroslavetz a fairly 
good highway goes eastward and south-eastward by 
Medyn to Yukhnov, and thence by Ielnia to Smolensk. 
The two Moscow-Kaluga roads are farthest apart between 
Tarutino and Borovsk, the latter place being some 
20 miles distant from the former and slightly to the 
north-east of it. Maloyaroslavetz is about n miles south 
of Borovsk, and some 22 by road from Tarutino. It is 
thus evident that it was a point of great strategic im- 

The positions of the opposing armies were as follows : 
On the French side Murat's force was near Voronovo, some 
18 miles north of Tarutino. At Fominskoie, 15 or 16 


miles west of Voronovo, was Broussier's division of the 
4th Corps, which had been sent thither a few days 
earlier. Junot, with the 8th Corps, was about Mozhaisk. 
The rest of the Grande Armee was in and around 

Marshal Kutuzov was encamped with his Corps de 
Bataille about Tarutino, while Miloradovich with the 
advance-guard was pushed forward to observe Murat. 
Platov's Flying Corps and other light detachments were 
in the vicinity of Tarutino ; Dorokhov was at Vereia ; 
and Winzingerode's cavalry observed Moscow, as before, 
on the north and east. 

Marshal Mortier was left by Napoleon to complete the 
evacuation of Moscow and to execute the abominable 
order to destroy the Kremlin. He had under his command 
Laborde's division of the Young Guard, Charrier's brigade 
of dismounted troopers, a brigade of light cavalry, and 
some artillery and sappers — about 9000 men in all. He 
was to hold the Kremlin for a few days and to give out 
that Napoleon would soon return, while clearing the 
ruins of such wounded, non-combatants and refugees. 

The rest of the Guard, the 1st, 3rd and 4th Corps, began 
to evacuate Moscow in the night of October 18-19. 
There was great confusion, owing to the crowding of the 
trains into the Moscow-Kaluga road, and the march was 
slow. Recklessness and the breakdown of discipline were 
everywhere apparent. When the 3rd Corps reached its 
rendezvous at the monastery of Semenovski it was found 
to be in flames, and it is astounding to read that quantities 
of provisions were burned in it. It is useless to seek for 
excuse for the commission of such an act ; it was simple 

The army advanced along the eastern road directly 
upon Tarutino. Eugene opened the march, and behind 
him came the 1st and 3rd Corps and the Guard. The 
advance by the western road appeared to threaten a 
frontal attack on the position of Tarutino, but on reaching 


the Pakhra, the Emperor diverted the columns on to the 
western route. Murat's force was broken up. The King 
himself with the relics of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry 
Corps was directed upon Fominskoie ; Poniatowski's 
corps on Vereia, to recover that place from Dorokhov. 
Ney was to take Murat's place at Voronovo, the Vistula 
Legion, the remains of the 4th Cavalry Corps and the 
cavalry of the 1st Corps being also placed at his disposal. 
He had in all about 16,000 men and over 100 guns — 
sufficient under his resolute leadership to hold Milora- 
dovich in check. There was also the possibility that his 
presence at Voronovo would induce Kutuzov to believe 
that the whole French army was advancing by the eastern 
road ; and in any case it would divert attention from the 
flank movement by the western one. 

The diversion of the advance to the western road was a 
well-conceived manoeuvre, and had it been carried out 
with greater rapidity it might have achieved brilliant 
results. The distance to Maloyaroslavetz by the French 
line of march is about 72 miles, which the leading troops 
covered by the evening of the 23rd. As the roads were 
poor and the cross-tracks unspeakable, and there was 
besides some rain to make them worse, the army cannot 
be said to have done badly. But its march, encumbered 
as it was by interminable trains of artillery and baggage, 
was not speedy enough for the emergency. The attention 
of the Russian staff, indeed, appears to have been riveted 
upon the eastern road, for it was not until the 22nd that 
Kutuzov learned that there were French troops at 
Fominskoie. Considering that it was probably merely a 
powerful screen for foraging operations, Kutuzov directed 
Dokhturov, with the 6th Corps and the light cavalry of 
the Imperial Guard, to attack and drive it back. Milora- 
dovich was ordered to demonstrate against the force in 
his front so as to prevent it detaching succours to the 
division at Fominskoie. This was on the evening of the 
22nd. Eugene's corps, with Delzons' division leading, 


was between Fominskoie and Borovsk ; Davout and the 
Guard were about Fominskoie. At midnight on the 
23rd Ney started from Voronovo for Borovsk in pouring 
rain which simply obliterated the tracks and seriously 
impeded the march. He was also harassed by detach- 
ments of Cossacks. Poniatowski arrived at Vereia early 
on the 23rd and, after some fighting, drove out Dorokhov, 
who retired by cross-roads towards Maloyaroslavetz. Late 
on the same day Delzons occupied Maloyaroslavetz with 
his advanced guard of two battalions. 

Dokhturov, accompanied by Yermolov and by Sir 
Robert Wilson, left Tarutino early on the 23rd. The 6th 
Corps, owing to its terrible losses at Borodino, was only 
10 regiments strong, even with the addition of one or two 
from corps which had suffered less. One of them, more- 
over, was detached to Ozharovski's column. Dokhturov 
had, therefore, only 18 battalions, 7 batteries and the 3 
regiments of the light cavalry of the Guard — about 
12,000 men in all, with 84 guns. By the afternoon he 
had arrived at a point 5 or 6 miles from the western road, 
between Fominskoie and Borovsk, and there received 
information that 12,000 French troops were in his front. 
He consulted with his subordinates and with Wilson, and 
it was decided, rightly, to halt and await events, since 
if this body were isolated it would probably remain on 
the defensive. If, on the other hand, it continued to 
advance it was probably the head of a formidable force — 
perhaps the entire French army. Very soon intelligence 
came from Seslavin that Moscow was evacuated and 
the French army marching across from the eastern road 
to Fominskoie ; and immediately afterwards a report 
from Dorokhov announced that a Cossack post at 
Borovsk had been expelled by Delzons. Dokhturov 
promptly took his decision. He could no longer hope to 
intercept the French at Borovsk, so must make a dash 
for Maloyaroslavetz, and there bar the road. He sent off 
word to Tarutino of his intelligence and intentions, and 


started his force for the vital point, arriving there in the 
night of the 23rd-24th. 

Napoleon himself reached Borovsk on the 23rd. 
Thence he despatched orders to Baraguay d'Hilliers to 
move out from Smolensk towards Ielnia. He evidently 
expected to carry out his manoeuvre without hindrance. 
In a letter to Eugene, dated at 7.30 p.m., he appears to 
have discovered the presence of Dokhturov, but to have 
anticipated an attack on the flank of his columns rather 
than an attempt to bar his way. As he dictated this 
despatch all the Russian commanders in touch with 
him had full information of his manoeuvre, Kutuzov had 
been warned, and Dokhturov was marching hard for 
Maloyaroslavetz ! 

At 1 a.m. Mortier in Moscow ordered the firing of 
the mines which had been laid under the buildings in the 
Kremlin and elsewhere. They were charged with 183,000 
pounds of powder, and great damage was wrought, but 
by no means the complete destruction intended by 
Napoleon. Mortier, who hated the ignominious task 
which he had been set by his master, is said, doubtless with 
truth, to have been by no means sorry at the compara- 
tively small results of the Emperor's vandalism. 

Winzingerode, who was already in the suburbs with his 
troops, pressed forward rather inconsiderately to re- 
occupy the Kremlin, riding himself in advance without 
an escort, attended only by a single aide-de-camp. The 
result was that he was taken prisoner, though he made 
a dishonourable, if not entirely inexcusable, attempt to 
escape by waving his handkerchief and pretending to have 
come on a parley. Mortier quite rightly declined to listen, 
and detained him. The evacuation was then completed. 
The Marshal made the most strenuous efforts to save all 
the invalids and to alleviate their sufferings as far as 
possible, but so great was the deficiency of transport 
that many hundreds had to be left behind. Eighteen 
guns, doubtless rendered unserviceable, were also aban- 


doned. The gigantic convoy, guarded by Mortier's small 
force, moved not by the main road to Smolensk, but by 
cross roads on Vereia. 

At Tarutino Kutuzov during the 23rd received the 
intelligence sent by Miloradovich and Dokhturov. The 
hour is a little doubtful, but he cannot have received 
Dokhturov's report until late in the day, and it was not 
possible to march at once owing to the absence of a 
large part of the artillery horses, which, as before the 
action of Vinkovo, had been led far away to obtain 
forage. The blame freely lavished upon Kutuzov for 
dilatoriness seems to be without foundation ; there was 
no unnecessary delay. To set forth to encounter Napoleon 
without the artillery would have been unwise to the verge 
of insanity. As a fact, supposing the final information to 
have reached the camp about 4 p.m., six or seven hours 
was not too long in which to call in the parties and make 
preparations for the march. Platov was sent off at once 
with 15 regiments of Cossacks to observe and harass the 
march of Napoleon's column, and at 11 p.m. the rest of 
the army started for Maloyaroslavetz. The distance, 
allowing for deviations, was about 25 miles, mostly over 
an execrable byway rendered almost impassable by the 
pouring rain. Nevertheless, the Russians pushed 
doggedly forward, and by 11 a.m. on the 24th the head 
of the column was within reach of Maloyaroslavetz. 
Seeing that Ney, who on this same night was moving 
across from the eastern road, did not reach Borovsk until 
the evening of the 26th, having occupied three days in 
covering about 36 miles, the greatest credit is due to the 
Russian army. 

Dokhturov with his force reached Maloyaroslavetz in 
the night of the 23rd-24th. Either now or soon after 
daylight on the 24th he was joined by Dorokhov from 
Vereia. His troops must have been nearly dead beat, but 
he managed to spread them round the town so as to 
hold the outlets of all the roads which led out of it. He, 


of course, did not know that there were only two battalions 
holding the town ; but Buturlin's blame of him for not 
carrying it is unreasonable. His men had been marching 
for nearly an entire day and night, and it was indis- 
pensably necessary to allow them some rest. 

Maloyaroslavetz, an ordinary Russian country town 
built almost entirely of wood, lay on the southern bank 
of the small river Luzha, at the point where it was crossed 
by a bridge carrying the Moscow-Kaluga road. The 
river, like most streams in the region, flows in a deeply 
sunk channel. Below the bridge there were, according 
to Wilson, fords, but the Russians did not need them, and 
the French knew nothing of them. In any case, neither 
side attempted to use them. The country was very 
broken and also wooded, and the banks of the river, 
especially the southern one, were very steep. There 
were a few isolated buildings near the stream, while the 
town proper lay some hundreds of yards farther on, 
spreading over the top of the rise on to a plateau with a 
slight descent to the southward. The only good artillery 
position on the Russian side was eastward of the town, 
but though from it the opposite bank of the Luzha, down 
which the enemy must come, could be commanded, the 
ground was so broken and wooded that the bridge could 
nowhere be seen, and it was never apparently seriously 

Early on the 24th some fugitive inhabitants made 
their way to Dokhturov, and informed him that there 
were as yet only two battalions of French troops in the 
town. Accordingly soon after daylight, his men having 
by this obtained a little rest, he sent forward the 6th and 
33rd Chasseur Regiments to carry the town. They 
expelled the garrison from nearly the whole of the place, 
but the buildings near the bridge formed a sort of tete dn 
pont, which the French held desperately. Dokhturov 
supported the attack by two more Chasseur regiments, 
but the resistance was stubborn, and the Russians 


could not advance against the deadly fire kept up upon 
them. Delzons could at first only reinforce the gallant 
garrison by fragments and driblets, for when his main 
body endeavoured to defile down the northern bank 
Dokhturov rapidly brought a line of batteries into action 
east of the town and effectually checked them. About 
an hour later some batteries of the 4th Corps, which were 
toiling along the miry road, were ranged by the Viceroy 
opposite the Russian artillery, and thus covered Delzons' 
division crossed the bridge and recaptured the town. 

Dokhturov thereupon restored the fight with three line 
regiments, which rallied the Chasseurs and stormed 
through the streets of Maloyaroslavetz, driving the 
13th Division back towards the bridge. Baron Delzons 
was killed in the midst of the struggle, and as his 
brother and aide-de-camp endeavoured to carry his 
body to the rear he also was struck down. Baron 
Guilleminot, Eugene's chief-of-staff, took the command, 
rallied the division and, supported by part of Broussier's, 
which was beginning to arrive, again stormed the now 
burning town, only to be forced out again as Dokhturov 
sent in fresh reinforcements. Once more the Russian 
charge was checked at the bridge; and Broussier and 
Guilleminot, with their united divisions, again drove the 
6th Corps through the blazing town, but could not 
debouch from it in the face of the Russian artillery fire. 

The main armies were approaching the scene of action. 
Davout's corps was advancing from Borovsk to the 
support of Eugene ; the main Russian army was nearing 
the field from Tarutino. Raievski's corps marched at the 
head of the long column, and behind him came in suc- 
cession the 8th, 3rd, 5th, 2nd and 4th Corps, and Korff's, 
Golitizin's and Vassilchikov's cavalry. The aged com- 
mander-in-chief travelled during the night in his carriage. 
When about 3 or 4 miles from Maloyaroslavetz he halted 
and ordered Colonel Lowenstern to see Dokhturov to 
report. The whole of the 6th Corps was now engaged 


and forced on the defensive by Broussier and Guilleminot ; 
and of this Lowenstern informed the commander-in- 
chief. Kutuzov sent Raievski forward at once to the 
assistance of Dokhturov, ordered the other corps to 
march upon the field with all speed, and himself mounted 
his horse and hurried to the front to range his oncoming 
troops in line of battle. 

Raievski's leading division, personally led by the corps 
commander and by Konovnitzin, reached the front about 
12.30 p.m., gathered up Dokhturov's weary divisions, and 
the united force stormed Maloyaroslavetz for the sixth 
time, driving Broussier and Guilleminot into the bridge- 
head for shelter, until Pino's Italians sustained and rallied 
them. The three divisions beat back the oncoming 
Russians and once more gained possession of the awful 
heap of bloodstained ruins that now represented the 
town. The conflict was horrible beyond description ; 
the opposing soldiery fought to the death amid con- 
flagration and ruin ; the wounded were suffocated, 
trodden underfoot, burned alive in the blazing houses, or 
hideously mangled by the opposing guns and artillery 
waggons as they forged their way backward and forward 
through the chaos. 

To repel the three French and Italian divisions 
Dokhturov was now obliged to send in Raievski's second 
division. Once more the Russian infantry poured into the 
ruins of Maloyaroslavetz, driving their opponents before 
them and thrusting them down the slope towards the 
bridge. But the head of Davout's corps was at length 
arriving, and Eugene accordingly sent in his last reserve, 
the Royal Guard of Italy. Its six battalions finally 
turned the scale against the Russian 6th and 7th Corps, 
which, still fighting furiously, were driven back upon 
and through the ruins of the town. Davout's corps 
artillery forced the batteries on the east to retire ; the 
entire artillery of the 4th Corps was pushed to the front 
over the dead and dying to support the infantry, while 


Compans' and Gerard's divisions crossed a temporary 
bridge and took up positions, the former on Eugene's left, 
the latter to his right. 

The French were masters of the blood-stained ruins of 
Maloyaroslavetz, and that was all. While the battle was 
raging Kutuzov had stationed his whole army just south 
of the town and commenced to entrench himself. He 
relieved the 6th Corps by the 8th and the 3rd Division, 
and directed Borozdin and Raievski once more to assault 
the dreadful ruins of Maloyaroslavetz. Borozdin's leading 
troops entered it, but were driven out again, and, realising 
that the French hold was now too firm to be shaken, the 
Russians finally withdrew ; but their immense artillery 
commanded every exit, and their skirmishers were every- 
where close up to those of their opponents. The 7th 
and 8th Corps and the 3rd Division were in front line ; the 
2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th with the rest of the 3rd in second 
and third, while the powerful cavalry covered both 
flanks as far as the Luzha. 

So far as a single event can be fixed upon as the decisive 
point of Napoleon's career that event is undoubtedly 
the battle of Maloyaroslavetz. Dokhturov's swift de- 
cision, splendidly seconded by the desperate fighting of 
the 6th and 7th Corps, had definitely ended all hope of 
carrying out the retreat with success. It may be doubted 
whether, even by marching by way of Kaluga, the army 
would have succeeded in retaining much discipline and 
cohesion ; but, at any rate, it would have been the 
only chance, and now the attempt had failed. Napoleon 
knew it. He established his head-quarters in a peasant's 
hut at Gorodnia, about 5 miles north of Maloyaroslavetz, 
and to him in the evening he called Murat, Berthier and 
Bessieres. He was seated at a table on which was spread 
a map of the country, and began to detail the situation 
to the generals. Suddenly the full extent of his imminent 
ruin seemed to burst upon him, and, dropping his head 
upon his hands and his elbows upon the table, he re- 


mained for more than an hour staring at the map, the 
comrades of his sixteen years of victory waiting for him 
to speak, silent and mournful. Rising at last he dismissed 
them without further comment, apparently resolved on a 
final desperate throw of the dice. He sent word to Davout 
to relieve Eugene's weary troops at the front, and that 
he would himself bring up the Guard in support. Ney, 
who had now reached Fominskoie, was ordered to bring 
Ledru's and Razout's divisions to a point between 
Borovsk and Maloyaroslavetz, leaving Claparede and 
Scheler to guard the vast assemblage of trains at the 
former place. 

Meanwhile Kutuzov had also been deliberating. He 
had announced his intention of standing to fight on the 
ground which he held ; but as the hours wore away his 
resolution failed him. He is not perhaps to be blamed ; 
it was no light thing to meet Napoleon — never so 
dangerous as when he appeared completely baffled. He 
knew that the quality of his army, diluted with raw 
militia-men and recruits of a few weeks' training, left 
much to be desired ; another battle like that of Borodino 
would completely cripple it. At any rate, he decided 
not to accept battle where he stood, but to fall back to 
another position about 3 miles in rear. This appears to 
have been strong enough ; but it left uncovered the road 
from Maloyaroslavetz to Medyn, which Napoleon might 
have used for his retreat. The anger in the Russian army 
was great. Wilson was furious, and practically accuses 
Kutuzov of treachery. This is, of course, absurd. The 
Russian commander-in-chief and the English commis- 
sioner were on very bad terms, the latter being ap- 
parently rather tactless and too urgent in his efforts to 
induce the former to take the offensive. There is no 
question that Kutuzov was too old for his post ; but, 
after all, he was the responsible chief of the Russian 
armies, and he knew, what Wilson did not, the internal 
condition of his own. Wild enthusiasm, assisted only by 


pikes, hardly constitutes a very firm stay against veteran 
and well-armed warriors led by a great military genius. 
Nevertheless, it is certain that Wilson and the bellicose 
Russian corps commanders were correct. The position 
behind Maloyaroslavetz was a better one than that 
which had been held with such desperate obstinacy at 
Borodino, and to defend it Kutuzov, after deducting 
the losses on the previous day, had 100,000 regulars and 
15,000 irregulars with over 600 guns. Against these 
Napoleon could bring only the Guard (less Claparede's 
division), the 1st and 4th Corps, the bulk of the 3rd and 
the remains of the reserve cavalry. Mortier was on the 
march from Moscow to Vereia, Junot near Mozhaisk, 
Poniatowski moving westward from Vereia. Allowing 
for these detachments Napoleon could place in line of 
battle by the 27th little more than 80,000 men, including 
the Head-quarters Guard. He would have 12,000 cavalry, 
mostly in very bad condition, and about 450 badly 
horsed guns as against at least 620 excellently appointed 
Russian pieces. This, however, Kutuzov did not ac- 
curately know, while he did know that Napoleon was 
in his front with the bulk of his army. He pointed out 
that any reverse would be fatal, since behind the present 
position was a very difficult defile. To Wilson's heated 
expostulations he replied angrily that he did not intend 
to win victories of which only England would reap the 
benefit ! This outbreak may be charitably attributed to 
ill-temper at Wilson's worrying of him. The withdrawal 
was carried out. There was considerable disorder during 
the passage of the artillery through the defile, but the 
movement was successfully accomplished, well protected 
by Miloradovich's skilful handling of the rear-guard. 

Davout in the morning was able to debouch unopposed 
from Maloyaroslavetz, but his advance was soon 
checked by the sight of the Russian army, now es- 
tablished in its new position. Meanwhile, Napoleon had 
started from Gorodnia. He was attended by his usual 


escort of three or four squadrons. The cavalry of the 
Guard was some distance behind when, on the road to 
Maloyaroslavetz, a mass of Cossacks poured out of the 
woods on the left and raced at the escort. They were 
riding in good order, says Rapp, so that it was at first 
thought that they were regulars. They were, in fact, 
Platov's own corps, the Ataman having crossed the 
Luzha early that morning to raid Napoleon's line of 
communications. He was now aiming for a park of 40 
guns of the Guard near Gorodnia. Rapp seized Napoleon's 
bridle and turned his horse, and the escort formed in 
haste, Rapp thrusting himself before the Emperor to 
shield him from the lances of the wild moss-troopers. His 
chivalrous devotion had wellnigh cost him dear, for his 
horse was killed, but the staff and escort rescued him, 
and, the cavalry of the Guard coming up, the Cossacks 
dispersed. They seized the artillery park, however, but 
the horses being at a distance watering, only 11 guns 
could be carried off. The bold attempt spread alarm 
through the army, which was almost all called under arms 
to resist an expected attack. 

Napoleon, probably greatly exasperated, returned to 
Gorodnia until the way should be safe. At ten o'clock he 
again started, examined the battle-field and then returned 
to Gorodnia, having practically wasted a whole day — 
this when every hour was precious. This may have been 
because he was still undecided as to what he should do. 
At his quarters he held a final and stormy council. Murat, 
bold to the last, advocated advance, and offered to 
clear a way if the Guard cavalry were added to the 
remnant of his horsemen. Bessieres, however, opposed 
him, observing that the transport was already failing 
and that the advance could not be rapid enough to be 
effective. Davout advised that the Medyn-Smolensk 
road should be adopted as the main line of retreat, but 
this was sufficient to provoke the opposition of Murat, 
who insisted that it was not safe from Russian flank 


attacks. The end was that Napoleon decided to fall back 
by the main road to Smolensk, and ordered the whole 
army to move on to it by way of Mozhaisk. The road by 
Medyn, Yukhnov and Ielnia is about 40 miles shorter 
than the route adopted ; the country which it traversed 
was not yet entirely devastated, and it is strange that 
Napoleon did not take it, braving the chance of a flank 
attack by the cautious, and by no means confident, 
Russian commander-in-chief. It is possible that, which- 
ever route the army might take, it would have been 
prevented from foraging by the Cossacks. Perhaps also 
Napoleon hoped to give Kutuzov the impression that he 
was retreating upon Vitebsk — as, in fact, he at first did. 

Kutuzov was, indeed, so little confident that on the 
26th he retreated towards Kaluga. His decision has been 
violently criticised, and not without much show of reason. 
The only reply is that what we know very well to-day was 
not so plain to Kutuzov in 1812. He did not believe 
that his army was a match for Napoleon's, and that the 
correct policy was to " play hide and seek " with the 
invaders, as Clausewitz expresses it, and so wear them out. 
Having come to this conclusion, Kutuzov proceeded to 
carry out his design regardless of opposition. He was 
perhaps wrong, but it cannot be pronounced on the 
evidence which lay before him at the time that he was. 
Had Napoleon followed, his army would but have been 
weakened ; had he turned westward the Russians would 
still have been on his flank. Wherever he went his line 
of march would be infested by Cossacks. Kutuzov was 
undoubtedly too cautious ; he might have risked more, 
but he might equally have exposed himself to the counter- 
strokes of his mighty antagonist, now driven to despera- 
tion, and have lost everything. His operations were 
conducted on the basal idea that Napoleon was not to 
be beaten by open force, but by steady evasion and 
constant harassing. From this point of view his retire- 
ment was natural. His really serious blunder was com- 


mitted two days later, and was the direct outcome of 
Napoleon's retreat by Mozhaisk. 

On the 26th, while Kutuzov's exasperated generals 
were ordering the retrograde march on Kaluga, Napoleon 
was commencing the fatal movement which was the 
beginning of his downfall. The 8th Corps about 
Mozhaisk naturally formed the advance-guard ; Ney 
was directed on Mozhaisk from Borovsk, while the 
Guard moved back to that place. Mortier was to 
reach Vereia by the evening, and next day would be 
rejoined by Roguet's and Claparede's divisions. 
Eugene was to follow in the track of the Guard, while 
Davout with the 1st Corps and the relics of the 1st 
and 3rd Cavalry Corps covered the rear. Poniatowski 
was to move by cross-roads to Gzhatsk to cover the 
left flank. Finally, Evers, who had moved some way 
southward towards Yukhnov, was to return to Viasma, 
and there await the army. 

While the French army lay about Maloyaroslavetz it 
had received repeated proofs of the activity and audacity 
of the Russian light troops. All the columns had in their 
turn been alarmed and harassed. On the 25th a body 
of Cossacks executed a hourra (alarm) upon Borovsk. 
On the same day Colonel Ilovaiski IX with three regiments 
of them surprised the advance-guard of the 5th Corps, 
consisting of a regiment of infantry and two of cavalry 
under General Tyskiewicz near Kreminskoie, between 
Vereia and Medyn. Tyskiewicz was captured, and of his 
force of about 1300 men, 500 were killed, wounded and 
captured. Ilovaiski also took 5 guns. 

In the actual battle of Maloyaroslavetz the forces 
engaged were nearly equal in number. On the French 
side there were successively sent into line the 4th Corps 
and the 3rd and 5th Divisions of the 1st — about 35,000 
men in all. The Russians successively engaged about 
the same numbers — Dokhturov's force, Dorokhov's 
detachment, the 7th Corps, the 3rd and 27th Divisions, 


and some regiments of Cossacks. The Russians admitted 
a loss of 4412 killed and wounded and 2753 missing. 
Very many of the latter, it is to be feared, perished in the 
burning town, and the actual total cannot be reckoned 
at less than 6000, quite five-sixths of which fell upon the 
20,000 infantry of the 6th and 7th Corps. A heavy loss 
was that of General Dorokhov, who, being somewhat 
deaf, miscalculated the distance of musketry fire and 
was mortally wounded in consequence. Martinien's lists 
show something over 300 officers killed and wounded on 
the French side, and the total of casualties, therefore, 
would also be about 6000 — the vast majority falling 
upon the 4th Corps. Of its four infantry division com- 
manders, Delzons was killed, and Broussier and Pino 
were wounded. Two generals of brigade were killed 
and three wounded. The losses in the various Cossack 
alarms were probably slight on both sides. The 
Russians, as aforesaid, captured 11 guns. 



THE result of the operations on the Duna and in 
Volhynia had been that by the end of August, 
Wittgenstein was standing on the defensive at 
Sivokhino faced by a considerably superior force under 
St. Cyr, while in Volhynia Tormazov had been driven 
to cover behind the Styr. He also was opposed by 
forces considerably larger than his own, but Admiral 
Chichagov was now advancing fast from Moldavia, and 
within a few weeks the scale would be turned heavily 
against the invaders. On August 28th the Tzar and the 
Crown Prince of Sweden met at Abo. The result was the 
treaty of Abo, which freed Count Steingell's Russian army 
of Finland for service against Napoleon. Reinforcements 
to the number of about 15,000 men, of whom 10,000 were 
St. Petersburg militia, were ordered to join Wittgenstein. 

To co-ordinate the movements of the widely scattered 
forces which from Finland to Moldavia were converging 
upon the theatre of war an elaborate plan of operations 
was worked out by Alexander and his council. It was 
far too detailed, required an impossible exactness of 
co-operation from the commanders, and assumed as 
complete the processes of reinforcement which had often 
hardly commenced. In its main lines it was as follows : — 

Chichagov was to concentrate at Ostrog, in Volhynia, 
and reach Pinsk by September 20th. He was to march 
upon and capture Minsk and then occupy the line of 


A. Rischgitz 


Commander of the 6th (Bavarian) Army Corps and victor of first battle of 
Polotsk, Aug. 18th, 1812 

From the picture by H. Vernet at Versailles 


the Berezina in conjunction with Wittgenstein, while 
Tormazov held in check or drove back Schwarzenberg. 

Wittgenstein, reinforced by 19,000 militia and 9000 
regulars, was to cross the Diina, supported by Steingell, 
attack St. Cyr in the rear and, having beaten him, was to 
push on to co-operate with Chichagov. 

Steingell, with 14,000 men of the army of Finland, was 
to go to Riga. The Riga garrison, 20,000 strong (it was 
actually much less), was to attack and contain Mac- 
donald, while under cover of this demonstration Steingell 
advanced on Polotsk to co-operate with Wittgenstein. 
Then, while the latter moved on to effect a junction with 
Chichagov, Steingell was to pursue St. Cyr towards Vilna. 

General Ertel's force at Mozyr was to move northward 
and join Chichagov in the neighbourhood of Minsk. 

The main object of the operations is clearly to bar 
Napoleon's homeward march from Moscow by a compe- 
tent force. But the orders were too minute in some 
respects and vague in others. They spoke of such events 
as the defeat of Schwarzenberg by Tormazov as if they 
were certain to materialise, were clogged with superfluous 
regulations of detail, and took little account of the prac- 
tical difficulties of organising and moving troops in a 
country like Russia. The strategy in broad outline was 
executed ; no more could have been expected. 

The efforts and intrigues of Andreossy, Napoleon's 
Ambassador at Constantinople, failed to induce the 
Turks to repudiate the Treaty of Peace concluded at 
Bukharest ; and thus Admiral Chichagov was, after 
long delays, enabled to start his army for the north. 
He had under his personal command five divisions of 
all arms commanded respectively by General Count 
Langeron, Lieut enant-Generals Voinov, Essen III and 
Sabaniev, and Major-General Bulatov. In all there were 
50 battalions, 56 squadrons, 17 batteries and 11 regiments 
of Cossacks. The troops generally were of excellent 
quality and largely veterans, but the units were weak. 


The total of regulars was perhaps 34,000, with 204 guns ; 
there were also between 3000 and 4000 Cossacks. A 
division of about 6000 men and 12 guns under Major- 
General Liiders, which had been supporting the famous 
Serb chief, Black George, was following from the west. 

The original idea had been that the Army of the Danube 
should invade the French possessions in Illyria ; but this 
was soon abandoned. Chichagov was much disappointed, 
but to penetrate through wild and rugged Balkania would 
have certainly meant the destruction of his army. 

Chichagov had been placed in charge of the Russian 
army of the Danube and of the peace negotiations with 
Turkey by the express command of Alexander, who was 
angry at the slowness of his predecessor Kutuzov. The 
Admiral was also a strong advocate of the policy of arming 
the Serbs against Napoleon and invading Illyria. The 
Tzar considered him an able and energetic man, and he 
certainly should have known, for Chichagov had been 
for some time Minister of Marine. Wilson, who visited 
him at Bukharest, was much impressed with his ability, 
and regretted that he had not been placed earlier in 

Wilson remarked that the Admiral's ability might not 
necessarily be equal to independent command, but, as 
a fact, Chichagov did quite as well as any of the other 
Russian generals. His lack of experience made him 
occasionally too slow ; but his comments upon the plans 
submitted to him show that he really possessed very 
sound military judgment. Above all, he was of a re- 
markably independent temper, and did not shrink from 
expressing his opinions. He criticised the elaborate 
Imperial plan of operations with vigour and acumen, 
telling the Tzar bluntly that he should act as if the orders 
were more definite than they actually were, and would 
answer for his deviations from them ! 

Chichagov's position in his own army was not too 
pleasant. The military officers were sulky at being 


commanded by a seaman ; his second-in-command, the 
Frenchman Langeron, was bitterly hostile, and in his 
memoirs loses no opportunity of attacking him. Even 
Langeron, however, admits his remarkable probity and 
scorn of personal profit — very rare virtues in a Russian of 
that period — and once or twice, despite himself, has to 
remark upon his chief's energy. 

Chichagov lef t Bukharest on August 3rd, and on the 9th 
concentrated his army at Fokshani. The weather was 
very wet, and the result was the flooding of the rivers 
Putna and Sereth beyond Fokshani, which destroyed the 
existing bridges and retarded their re-establishment, so 
that it was not until the 17th that the Army of the Danube 
was able to resume its march. The battle of Gorodeczna 
had been fought ; Tormazov was in full retreat for the 
Styr, and soon his anxious messages began to reach the 
Admiral, who, in reply, hastened up to the rescue at a pace, 
considering the difficulties, perhaps never equalled in 
war. The weather was hot ; the roads were almost non- 
existent ; the army, after the bad fashion of Russian 
forces, was encumbered with immense trains ; neverthe- 
less the speed of its march was remarkable. From the 
Sereth to Jassy, from Jassy to Choczim and Kamenetz- 
Podolski, thence for the Styr by Staroi-Konstantinov and 
Zaslavl, it took its way, marching rapidly but methodi- 
cally, halting for one day in every six in order to rest 
and close up its straggling columns. Every effort was 
made to hasten the march, especially after passing the 
Dniester ; weakened infantrymen were carried in waggons, 
while the cavalry and artillery pressed forward with all 
speed. On September 14th, as Miloradovich was with- 
drawing his rear-guard from Moscow, Chichagov in person 
entered Ostrog ; and on the same day Voinov's division 
reached Krymniki-on-Styr to the support of Tormazov. 
Langeron was at Dubno, one march behind Voinov, Essen 
and Sabaniev at Ostrog, while Bulatov had not yet 
passed Zaslavl. From Fokshani to the Styr is a distance 


of over 450 miles, which had been traversed by the 
leading divisions in 29 days, including 5 of rest — a 
sustained average of over 15 miles a day and an actual 
marching average of 19 ! The army reached the Styr in 
excellent order, ready to take the offensive immediately. 

At Dubno Chichagov was joined by two infantry 
regiments from the Crimea. The united Russian armies 
now amounted to about 67,000 men, including 18,000 
cavalry and Cossacks, with over 300 pieces of artillery. 

Schwarzenberg had about 42,000 troops under his 
command, but some thousands of them were raw Polish 
levies, and he possessed only 102 guns wherewith to 
oppose the immense park of his opponents. The marshy 
and malarious country was causing much sickness among 
his troops. Very likely also he was withheld by orders 
from Vienna, and the disaffection among his subordinates 
must have counted for much. But, in fact, he had not 
troops sufficient to force the passage of the Styr against 
an army not very inferior to his own in numbers, and 
much stronger in artillery. On September 15th, just as 
Chichagov was closing up to the front, he wrote to Berthier 
and explained his difficulties. On the 17th he made a 
demonstration along the river and became convinced 
that the Army of the Danube had now joined Tormazov. 

Chichagov, having relieved Tormazov from fear of 
being overwhelmed, could now allow his troops to move 
more leisurely. For some days, therefore, his divisions 
were merely quietly ranged along the Styr ; and the river 
was bridged. Schwarzenberg, realising that he was about 
to be attacked, drew back his detachments and prepared 
to retreat as soon as the Russians moved forward. Early 
on the 20th Lambert crossed the Styr and surprised 14 
squadrons of German and Polish cavalry, capturing 300 
prisoners. On the 22nd the general advance of the 
Russians began. 

It is rather characteristic of the Imperial orders that 
they provided for no subordination of one general to 



another in the combined operations which they contem- 
plated. In the present instance no trouble arose, as 
Chichagov and Tormazov agreed well together ; and 
when on the 24th orders arrived from Kutuzov for 
Tormazov to march to reinforce the main army the latter 
quietly disregarded it. A few days later came another 
order, this time directing Chichagov to go, and Tormazov 
to remain to check Schwarzenberg. The Admiral declined 
to abandon his comrade, and comments sarcastically upon 
these contradictory directions. In any case, neither 
Chichagov nor Tormazov could have reached Tarutino 
in time. At the end of September the Imperial instruc- 
tions were brought by the Tzar's aide-de-camp, Colonel 
Chernishev. Chichagov observes that their object was 
clearly to range a strong force along the line of the 
Berezina ; and, having despatched his outspoken reply 
to his master, proceeded to attain the end in his own way. 
At the same time Tormazov was called by Kutuzov to 
succeed Bagration, leaving Chichagov in supreme com- 

On the 22nd the Russian armies crossed the Styr, 
Schwarzenberg 's outposts falling back before them. 
Schwarzenberg retired upon Luboml, a little east of 
the Bug on the Lublin-Kovel road, where he concentrated 
on the 28th. By the evening of the 29th Chichagov and 
Tormazov had collected most of their forces in his front ; 
but in the night he evacuated his position and retreated 
towards Brest-Litovsk, sending at the same time Siegen- 
thal's division to Pruzhani. Chichagov pursued him with 
the bulk of his forces, only detaching Voinov to follow 
Siegenthal. On October 9th Chichagov reached Brest- 
Litovsk and called in his detachments to give battle ; but 
Schwarzenberg wisely decamped in the night and re- 
treated on Warsaw. He took up a position at Wengrow, 
about 42 miles east of Praga, and awaited events, while 
Siegenthal fell back to Bielostok. Chichagov, having 
driven Napoleon's extreme right wing across the Bug, 


halted at Brest-Litovsk with his main body in order to 
prepare to carry out the instructions brought by Cher- 

The losses in these operations were not very heavy. 
There had been a good deal of skirmishing, but no general 
action ; and it is unlikely that Schwarzenberg's army 
lost more than 3000 to 4000 men. The diminution in 
the Russian forces must have been even less. 

Chichagov now, according to various critics on both 
sides, committed a great blunder. He remained halted 
for 18 days at Brest-Litovsk. But, as Bogdanovich 
has justly pointed out, he was about to advance through 
a country which, never rich, had been devastated by the 
passage across it of several armies. He had to divide his 
army for its new operations, leaving a competent force to 
observe Schwarzenberg, and to collect supplies sufficient 
to feed his own corps. Besides, the Army of the Danube 
had been marching and fighting for more than two months, 
and may well have needed time wherein to repose and 

During the halt at Brest-Litovsk General Sacken 
joined the army from the south, bringing with him 
about 4000 depot troops, who appear to have been 
drafted into the weaker units. 

While the Admiral himself remained at Brest, preparing 
for the march to the Berezina, he sent out detachments 
to overrun Warsaw and sweep the country towards 
Minsk. The detachments sent towards Warsaw were 
supported by Essen Ill's division, which, on October 18th. 
came in contact at Biala with Reynier and was driven 
back, with a loss of several hundred men and a gun, 
upon Brest-Litovsk. On the other hand, General 
Chaplitz on the 20th destroyed the new Lithuanian 
regiment of Napoleon's Guard at Slonim, only about 
120 men escaping out of 600. Chaplitz's detachment 
was supported by Cherbatov's (formerly Markov's) 
division. Eastward of Slonim there were very few in- 


vading troops to cover the long line of communications, 
threatened on the south by Russian forces at Bobruisk 
and Mozyr. The garrison of Bobruisk was not strong 
enough to make effective sorties, but the force at Mozyr 
had been gradually increased to about 12,000 men and 
over 30 guns. To guard against the menace of this force 
and to observe Bobruisk, Dombrowski's infantry division 
and three regiments of cavalry had been left by 
Poniatowski in August. Dombrowski's whole force, even 
after the junction of some Lithuanian levies, can never 
have exceeded 9000 men, and was barely sufficient, after 
garrisoning Mohilev, to observe Bobruisk, much less to 
oppose any effectual resistance to Ertel. On September 
nth a column from Mozyr forced an Austrian detach- 
ment to abandon Pinsk, while a second, under Ertel 
himself, defeated Dombrowski's Lithuanians on the 15th 
and threw some reinforcements into Bobruisk. Then, 
however, he retired to Mozyr. 

From Riga on August 7th Essen again made a sortie 
and captured Schlock, which was then retaken by the 
Prussians. On the 23rd Essen decided to make a general 
attack upon the Prussians, who lay observing the city, 
extended from Schlock to Thomsdorf on the Diina, a 
distance of 42 miles. A column under Lewis was to make 
the real attack upon Eckau, while a detachment under 
Major-General Veliaminov demonstrated towards Mitau, 
and Rear-Admiral von Miiller with a flotilla of sloops 
attacked Schlock. The Prussian posts at Dahlenkirchen 
on the Diina were driven back, with some loss, by Lewis, 
but Veliaminov's demonstration had no results, though 
von Miiller captured Schlock. On the 26th Grawert, 
having collected his scattered detachments, drove Lewis 
back into Riga ; and Schlock and Dahlenkirchen were re- 
occupied. The losses in these actions, combined with 
sickness, considerably weakened the garrison. On the 
other hand, they proved that the Prussians were not 
strong enough even to blockade the place. Macdonald 


sent a brigade of Grandjean's division to reinforce them, 
and prepared to bring up the rest of it at need. 

After this both sides lay inactive until September 18th, 
when there was some more indecisive skirmishing about 
Schlock. The Prussians were now commanded by 
Lieutenant-General Yorck, Grawert being invalided. 
Between the 20th and 22nd, Count Steingell's corps from 
Finland, which had landed at Revel on the 10th, entered 
Riga. It had sustained some losses by shipwreck, and 
part of the troops were detained by contrary winds, so 
that Steingell had with him only a little over 10,000 men 
and 18 guns. Nevertheless, the force in Riga was now 
over 20,000 strong, and an attempt could be made to 
execute the Tzar's orders. 

On the 26th accordingly Steingell with his own troops 
and a division under Lewis moved out upon Dahlen- 
kirchen. It was easily occupied, and on the 27th Steingell 
advanced upon Eckau, where Yorck had collected several 
regiments. His superiority in artillery enabled him to 
hold Steingell in check until the arrival of Lewis, when 
he retired behind the Aa, abandoning Bausk. 

While Steingell was pushing back Yorck, Essen 
directed a column of 2000 men and 6 guns upon Mitau 
from Riga, while a flotilla came up the Aa. Essen's hope 
was to destroy the siege train, which, however, was not 
there. He ordered Steingell to support the advance with 
3000 men and 6 guns, under Colonel Ekeln. On the 28th 
Yorck, being not yet joined by Hunerbein's brigade 
(Grandjean's division), ordered General Kleist to abandon 
Mitau and come to reinforce him. This Kleist did, and 
on the 29th the Russians occupied the place without 
opposition. But meanwhile Yorck, reinforced by Kleist 
and Hunerbein, took the offensive against Steingell's 
weakened force and began to drive it back. There was 
some not very vigorous fighting along the Aa, as the result 
of which the Prussians gained a foothold on the farther 


Hunerbein, coming from the right, had retaken Bausk, 
and on the 30th Yorck made a general advance, driving 
Steingell back all along the line. The fighting was not at 
all severe, Steingell merely gave way deliberately before 
the advance of Yorck's now superior columns. On the 
other hand, Yorck was probably not anxious to do more 
than his strict military duty required. Steingell retired 
towards Riga with no serious loss and re-entered the lines 
on the 2nd of October, Essen at the same time evacuating 
Mitau. The losses on neither side were heavy. 

The result of the action was that Macdonald decided 
to come himself to the support of Yorck. Leaving a Polish 
regiment in Diinaburg he marched for Mitau with the 
rest of Grand] ean's division, but when he arrived the 
Russians had retreated into Riga. The Marshal in- 
creased Hunerbein's brigade to 8 battalions, rearranged 
the positions of the troops, and sent Grand jean with one 
brigade back to Illuxt, near Diinaburg. To draw closer 
to Riga with his feeble forces was evidently impossible, 
and week after week wore itself away without any fight- 
ing except some occasional skirmishing at the outposts. 

After his victory at Polotsk, on August 18th, St. Cyr 
had been unable to follow in pursuit of Wittgenstein 
owing to his weakness in cavalry fit for the purpose. 
Wittgenstein therefore was able to withdraw unmolested 
behind the Drissa. On the 22nd Wrede made a strong 
reconnaissance towards Sivokhino, but the Bavarians 
were repulsed by a detachment under Colonel Vlastov 
with a loss of about 300 killed and wounded and 150 

Both sides now settled down into cantonments. Both 
had suffered very severely and neither was in a state to 
resume hostilities. Wittgenstein entrenched his position 
at Sivokhino, and his cavalry were able to circumscribe 
the French foraging operations on the right bank of the 
Diina. Wittgenstein also fortified his advanced base of 
Sebezh. Meanwhile, St. Cyr threw up entrenchments 


round Polotsk. The troops were distributed around the 
town, and, being largely in quarters or in barracks and 
tolerably well supplied, were soon in good condition. 
The effectives were increased by drafts and convalescents, 
but it is doubtful whether there was any great rise in the 
numbers owing to the diminution occasioned by constant 
petty skirmishing. The Bavarians were apparently 
unable to recover from the blighting effects of the sickness 
planted in their midst by their terrible hardships in July, 
and, though they were at rest and better supplied than 
they had hitherto been, their numbers continued to 
diminish. Maret and Hogendorp did their best to forward 
supplies from Vilna, but bread was often scarce and 
already, on October 7th, St. Cyr was writing to express 
his anxiety at the difficulty of procuring forage. The 
numerical strength of St. Cyr's force by the middle of 
October appears to have been about 30,000 men — 2nd 
Corps 21,000 ; Doumerc about 2200 ; 6th Corps perhaps 
7000 or 8000. 

Meanwhile, Marshal Victor, having crossed the Niemen 
on September 4th, reached Smolensk on the 27th. On 
October 6th Napoleon gave him his instructions. Besides 
his corps and the Saxon and Westphalian brigades of 
Low and Coutard he was given control of Dombrowski's 
division. He was informed that he was to act as the 
general reserve of the Grande Armee, and would move 
to support either Schwarzenberg, St. Cyr, or Napoleon, 
according to circumstances. Napoleon greatly under- 
estimated the pressure on his flanks. He says in the 
despatch that Chichagov is only 20,000 strong, that his 
junction with Tormazov will only raise his force to 40,000, 
and that Schwarzenberg can easily deal with him. As a 
fact, both Schwarzenberg and St. Cyr were opposed by 
greatly superior numbers. Even when the former had 
been joined by his reinforcements he was still outnumbered 
by Chichagov, who might be further strengthened by 
Ertel from Mozyr. On the north Wittgenstein and 


Steingell had 50,000 men against St. Cyr's 30,000. To 
afford adequate support to the wings Victor would have 
needed 80,000 men. 

A few words must here be said upon the diplomatic 
situation. Prussia, trodden into the dust by Napoleon's 
iron heel, was in the last stages of destitution, while 
Austria, though sorely humiliated, was still independent, 
far less wasted, and, in addition, was more or less afraid 
of a revival of Prussia. These circumstances are reflected 
in the despatches of the Prime Ministers, the Prussian, 
Hardenberg, being eager to take vigorous steps and in- 
clined to believe in the rumours of French defeats ; while 
Metternich is pessimistic and obviously playing for his 
own — or Austria's — hand. He seems after the fall of 
Moscow to have considered that Napoleon might win, 
and accordingly a reinforcement of about 5000 men 
was despatched to Schwarzenberg. Otherwise there 
were signs that Napoleon's vassals were beginning 
to falter at the never-ending drain of human life. 
Bavaria and Wurttemberg sent drafts to refill the 
wasted ranks of their contingents ; but the King of 
Wurttemberg spoke of his uneasiness at receiving no 
news. The Grand Duke of Baden professed himself 
unable to add to his treaty contingent. In his growing 
anxiety Napoleon actually went to the length of politely 
asking the King of Prussia to replace two weakened 
cavalry regiments. He also directed that every reinforce- 
ment despatched was to be stated in all newspapers at 
double its strength, so as to impose upon the Russians 
should the tidings reach them ! 

After the failure of the sortie from Riga Count Steingell 
made up his mind to waste no more time in attempting 
to execute the official plan of operations, but to join 
Wittgenstein without delay. On October 5th he left Riga, 
and proceeded by forced marches up the right bank of 
the Duna. On the 15th he reached Druia, having marched 
over 180 miles in ten days. 


On October 10th Wittgenstein's first column of reinforce- 
ment, over 5000 strong, arrived at Sivokhino. On the 
same day the 9000 men of the second column reached 
Nevel, and on the 14th its junction with the main force 
was practically complete. Wittgenstein had now under 
his hand about 40,000 men, including 5000 cavalry and 
Cossacks, with 154 guns. 

Wittgenstein distributed the militia battalions among 
the infantry, one to each regiment, and his staff issued 
special orders as to how these enthusiastic but raw troops 
were to act in battle. The effect was excellent ; and 
though the men were imperfectly clothed and equipped, 
and almost untrained, they rapidly gained efficiency and 

The unfortunate effect of the elaborate and too minute 
Imperial plan of operations now became evident. Stein- 
gell had acted upon his own judgment in marching to 
reinforce Wittgenstein ; but he felt himself obliged to 
act upon his master's orders as far as possible, and so 
crossed the Diina at Druia to operate on the left bank. 
He was thus completely separated from Wittgenstein, and 
the latter could only endeavour to remedy the strategic 
defect by bridging the river nearer Polotsk. As he had 
no pontoons the operation was likely to prove a lengthy 
one. He ordered his chief of engineers, Colonel Count 
Sievers, to construct a bridge at Desna, detailing as his 
escort 4 battalions of infantry and a regiment of cavalry — 
2500 men and 4 guns. 

So far as there was any concerted plan of operations 
on the part of the Russian commanders, it appears to 
have been that Wittgenstein was to attack Polotsk and 
Steingell to cut off St. Cyr's retreat. It was clear that 
the French general might choose to hold Polotsk merely 
by a rear-guard, and destroy Steingell's small force by 
concentrating upon him the bulk of his own army. To 
obviate this, Wittgenstein must attack Polotsk speedily 
and vigorously. Even so the outlook was not altogether 


Commander of the ist Russian Army Corps in 1812 

A. Rischgitz 


promising. Polotsk was fortified ; and St. Cyr was quite 
strong enough to hold it against the 37,000 men of whom 
Wittgenstein disposed after deducting Sievers' detach- 

Wittgenstein distributed his numerically strong but 
rather incoherent force into three large divisions of all 
arms, commanded respectively by Lieutenant-Generals 
Prince Iachvil and Berg and Major-General Beguichev, 
besides a flank detachment under Major-General Alexiev. 
On the 16th he began his march upon Polotsk, while 
Steingell was moving from Druia. 

St. Cyr did not believe that he could hold his own 
unaided against the united Russian forces ; but deter- 
mined to defend Polotsk if Wittgenstein should dash his 
head against its entrenchments. He detached Corbineau 
with his cavalry brigade and three weak Bavarian 
battalions to observe Steingell, passed his trains, escorted 
by Doumerc and Castex, across to the left bank of the 
Duna and posted the rest of his forces in the entrench- 
ments which he had caused to be thrown up. Polotsk 
itself was covered by a palisaded parapet. Across the 
western part of the town a second palisaded parapet had 
been carried from the Polota to the Duna, covering the 
two bridges of rafts which had been thrown across the 
river. On the western bank of the Polota, north-west of 
the town were three redoubts, and to the north the 
Roman Catholic cemetery had been entrenched. On the 
east of the Polota the exterior chain of defence was less 
complete. Three redoubts and an outlying battery were 
under construction, but not yet finished. Below the 
town batteries had been thrown up to flank the entrench- 
ments on the western side. The passage of the Polota 
had been rendered as difficult as might be, and at the 
village of Struria above Polotsk the ground near the river 
had been flooded by damming up a brook. 

Merle's division held the entrenched western side of the 
town, and the first of the Polota redoubts. Wrede's 


Bavarians defended Nos. 2 and 3, the cemetery, Spas, 
and the line of the Polota. On the east side of the Polota 
stood Legrand, while Maison continued the line to the 
Diina. On the right flank were four squadrons of cavalry, 
all that St. Cyr had retained. Struria was occupied by a 
detachment of Bavarians. 

On the 1 8th Steingell had not yet reached Desna ; the 
bridge was scarcely commenced ; and Wittgenstein 
decided to assault St. Cyr's position. He rightly directed 
the weight of his attack upon the French right and right 
centre, where the entrenchments were still incomplete. 
Prince Iachvil was ordered to contain Merle and Wrede, 
while Berg and Beguichev assailed Legrand and Maison. 

The French outposts were driven back by the advance 
of the Russians ; but when Berg and Beguichev assailed 
the main French line they could make little headway. 
The combat swayed backward and forward ; the Russian 
militia behaved with splendid bravery ; but the French 
troops, aided by their entrenchments, everywhere held 
their ground ; the single redoubt carried by the Russians 
could not be held in the face of the furious fire poured 
into it from the entrenchments before Polotsk. Wittgen- 
stein apparently lost his head ; and though he had at 
first, according to Russian authorities, merely intended 
a demonstration, he had by the evening employed nearly 
the whole of Berg's and Beguichev's divisions in vain 
attempts to force the French right. 

About 4 p.m., apparently on the hypothesis that St. 
Cyr had weakened his left to withstand the attack on his 
right, Wittgenstein ordered Iachvil to assault in earnest 
the western works. The attempt was hopeless, and could 
not for a moment have succeeded. Such advantage as 
the Russians gained was due to a rash counter-attack 
made by a Swiss regiment and a battalion of Croats. 
They suffered very heavily and were driven back upon 
the works, the Croats being mostly captured. But this 
was all that Iachvil could achieve, though his militia 


fought with fanatic fury. At nightfall St. Cyr's position 
was practically intact ; and the Russians had certainly 
lost far more heavily than the French. While the battle 
was proceeding, Steingell was approaching by the left 
bank of the Duna, but was only able to reach the Uchach, 
7 or 8 miles west of Polotsk, by the evening of the 18th 
with his advance-guard. De Chambray criticises him for 
his slowness ; but as he only crossed the Duna on the 
16th, and then had nearly 50 miles of bad road to traverse 
in order to reach Polotsk, the stricture appears unjust. 
On the 19th Steingell informed Wittgenstein that he was 
at hand. The bridge at Desna was hardly commenced, 
and had St. Cyr been a little stronger the position of the 
Russians would have been even more serious than it 
was. Wittgenstein's army had obviously been badly 
shaken by the fierce fighting of the day before ; for he 
made no attempt to renew the attack until Steingell 
could join in from the south. This threw an awkward 
responsibility upon the commander of the weak Finland 
corps, and exposed him to the risk of destruction should 
St. Cyr decide to hold Polotsk only as a tete de pont and 
concentrate a superior force on the left bank of the 
Duna. To the writer it seems that St. Cyr might have 
abandoned his outlying works, and left the inner and 
continuous line to be held by about 14,000 men, while 
with the remaining 14,000 (allowing for losses) he attacked 
and defeated Steingell, who had scarcely 10,000 actually 
in hand. This, however, he did not do ; and as the precise 
strength of the entrenchments is a matter of doubt he 
was perhaps right. He detached one regiment from each 
of his divisions, and sent them under General Amey to 
reinforce Corbineau. A Cuirassier regiment was also 
directed to the Uchach. Steingell's advance-guard, only 
four battalions under Colonel Turshaninov, naturally 
halted before this accumulation of force and waited for 
the main body, while Steingell apparently was listening 
for the sound of Wittgenstein's guns before advancing 


on Polotsk. The French containing force took up a 
fairly strong position among woods and broken ground, 
and effectually checked the advance of the Finland corps. 
St. Cyr, however, made up his mind that he was not strong 
enough to contend at the same time with both Russian 
forces, and in the evening began to evacuate Polotsk. 
Iachvil noted the withdrawal of troops and opened fire 
on his front, the Russian centre and left taking up the 
ball. The Russians were too late to molest the evacuation 
of the outer works, but they pushed forward against the 
inner line round the town. The houses everywhere took 
fire, partly ignited by the Russian howitzers, partly, 
as it would seem, burned by the French to clear the 
front of some of their works, which would otherwise 
have been masked. The Russian infantry attacks were 
everywhere repulsed ; and during the evening Legrand's 
and Maison's divisions and the Bavarians defiled through 
the town and crossed the bridge, covered by Merle's 
Swiss and Croats. At midnight the Russians entered 
Polotsk ; but the battle was far from its end. Merle and 
his gallant regiments disputed every inch of the streets 
with splendid valour, repeatedly repulsing the headlong 
charges of the Russian infantry. By 2.30 p.m. the whole 
French army was safe on the left bank of the Duna, and 
the bridges were destroyed. St. Cyr, as he directed the 
battle, was severely wounded in the foot, and disabled 
for the rest of the campaign. He had perhaps committed 
an error in not merely holding the inner works at Polotsk 
and thus concentrating a superior force on Steingell ; but 
the steady and successful retreat did him much honour. 
It seems clear that he was throughout master of his 
operations ; and that Wittgenstein could only press the 
withdrawal very slightly. The honours of the fighting 
rested chiefly with the gallant Swiss regiments of Merle's 
division, whose conduct in the rear-guard was truly 
St. Cyr being now for the moment in safety, reinforced 


the force facing Steingell with another French regiment 
and placed Wrede in command. At 4.30 a.m. on the 20th 
he fell unexpectedly upon Steingell, whose advance- 
guard, surprised in its bivouacs, was seized with a panic 
and dispersed. Buturlin says that 1800 men of 2 
regiments of Chasseurs were captured, but as this would 
appear to be almost their whole strength, and they 
figure later as at least 2 battalions strong, this is doubt- 
less an exaggeration. Steingell's main body was not 
closely supporting the unlucky vanguard, and on its 
dispersal he hastily collected the remainder of his troops 
and retreated on Desna, where he crossed the Diina, while 
Wrede, having disposed of him, rejoined the main body of 
the French army. Besides St. Cyr, Legrand, the senior 
divisional commander, was wounded, and the temporary 
charge of the 2nd and 6th Corps devolved upon Merle. 
On the 21st he finally retreated from before Polotsk. 
Wittgenstein, hampered by lack of engineers and bridging 
material, could not establish a passage over the Diina 
until the 23rd. Only a detachment of cavalry under 
Colonel Rudiger forded the river and skirmished with 
Merle's outposts. To make the best of things Wittgen- 
stein detached a division of all arms under General 
Sazonov to Desna to reinforce Steingell. The latter 
thereupon on the 23rd repassed the Diina, detached 
Major-General Vlastov with a force of 8 regular battalions, 
1 militia battalion, 3 squadrons of Hussars, a regiment of 
Cossacks and 12 guns — about 5000 men in all — to observe 
Diinaburg, and with the rest of his force moved once 1 
more up the left bank of the river. On the same day 
Wittgenstein completed a bridge at Polotsk and began to 1 
cross. He had just been joined by two battalions of 
Novgorod militia, which he left with another militia 
battalion, 2 batteries, a detachment of regulars and some 
cavalry and Cossacks to garrison Polotsk. 

Merle retreated from before Polotsk in 3 columns, 
Legrand's division moving on Bechenkowiczi, Wrede, 


with the remains of the 6th Corps and Corbineau's 
cavalry, on Glubokoie to cover the road to Vilna, the 
remainder of the 2nd Corps and Doumerc's Cuirassiers 
on Chasniki by way of Uchach and Lepel. 

Martinien's lists, probably not quite complete, show 
238 officers of the 3 " combatant " arms, almost all of 
the 2nd Corps, killed and wounded during the three 
days' fighting round Polotsk. The French loss would 
therefore have been in the region of 5000. The number 
of un wounded prisoners was apparently about 1000. 
The French lost also 1 gun. The Russians only admit 
a loss of 3000 killed and wounded, but, seeing the char- 
acter of the fighting, and that the French were acting on 
the defensive and covered by entrenchments, this estimate 
is certainly far too low. Probably, allowing for Steingell's 
losses, 8000 would not be too low a figure. Among the 
wounded were Major-Generals Balk, Hammen and the 
Prince of Siberia ; and Privy Councillor Bibikov and Cham- 
berlain Mordvinov, who commanded militia battalions. 

Marshal Victor cannot long have had Napoleon's 
instructions in his hands when he was called upon to 
act upon them. On reaching Smolensk he cantoned his 
corps between that place and Orsha. His troops appear 
to have maintained good discipline ; and a commence- 
ment was made of establishing order in the vicinity. 
Some officers, at least, succeeded in instilling confidence 
into the villagers and obtaining supplies by regular 
methods ; and more might have been done had the 9th 
Corps remained longer in the district. Upon learning 
from St. Cyr of the large reinforcements which were 
joining Wittgenstein, Victor sent Dandels' German 
division to Vitebsk, and four battalions to Bechenkowiczi 
to watch the line of the Duna. Then he heard of the 
abandonment of Polotsk ; and it was clear that he must 
assist the overmatched army of St. Cyr. He accordingly 
directed Dandels upon Bechenkowiczi ; and with the 
rest of his corps moved towards Chasniki. 


The result of the operations about Polotsk therefore 
had been that the French had been forced to abandon the 
line of the Duna, and that to sustain them Napoleon's 
sole powerful reserve had to be diverted to sustain the 
retreating 2nd and 6th Corps. Only the small force at 
Smolensk was now available to reinforce the retreating 
army of the centre ; and there was hardly anything to 
oppose the advance of Chichagov on the Berezina. On 
October 25th Napoleon was 70 miles south-west of 
Moscow, just about to retreat on Smolensk, with the 
Grand Army of Russia on his left flank able to reach his 
goal before him. Wittgenstein was advancing from the 
Duna towards the Berezina, but was faced by an equal 
or superior force, and might be kept from the main line 
of communications. Chichagov was at Brest-Litovsk, 
ready to march on Minsk, with nothing in his front but | 
feeble detachments. 

Therefore, in the last days of October, the focus of 
operations became the Berezina near Borisov. Upon it | 
were converging : (1) Napoleon, nearly 400 miles distant, 
with an equal or superior enemy attending him on the 1 
flank and able to reach Smolensk before him ; (2) j 
Wittgenstein, 90 miles away, with an equal French force j 
in his front ; (3) Chichagov, 262 miles distant, with 
hardly anything to oppose him. Schwarzenberg was in 
rear of Chichagov, and watched by a force at least able 
to seriously hamper any attempt at pursuit made by 
him. So the curtain rose upon the last act of the great 
tragedy, as from every side Napoleon's armies and those 
of his enemies set their faces towards the Berezina, soon 
to acquire a terrible renown in the history of the world. 



ON October26th the French retreat by the Moscow- 
Smolensk road definitely commenced. Napoleon 
with the Guard and 4th Corps moved back to 
Borovsk. Ney was directed by Vereia on Mozhaisk, 
while Davout with the 1st Corps and the relics of the 
1st and 3rd Cavalry Corps remained near Maloyaros- 
lavetz until the evening. And, while Napoleon was 
retracing his steps, Kutuzov, also, was retreating upon 
Kaluga. He apparently feared that the French, having 
the road open, would move westward to Medyn and 
thence south-eastward upon Kaluga. This hypothesis 
is a direct reflection upon his action in abandoning his 
position outside Maloyaroslavetz. As matters stood, 
Kutuzov's inference was not unreasonable ; Poniatow- 
ski's corps was actually on the mai;ch from Vereia to 
Medyn, and appeared to be the advance-guard of a turning 
movement. Miloradovich remained in observation on the 
original Russian position, and Platov continued to hover 
about Davout's corps. The Corps de Bataille retro- 
graded to Gonsherevo, about 12 miles from Kaluga. 
Paskievich's division was sent to bar the Medyn-Kaluga 
road at Adamovskoe, some miles to the westward. There 
he was joined by Ilovaiski IX and his Cossack detach- 
ment. Miloradovich was about to fall back on the 
Russian main body when it was discovered that Maloya- 
roslavetz was evacuated. Kutuzov was informed, and 
the advance-guard reoccupied the line of the Luzha. 



Kutuzov appeared to have inferred that Napoleon's 
intention was to retreat upon Smolensk — as, in fact, it was. 
He accordingly directed his main body upon Adamovskoe, 
evidently with the purpose of following on the flank of 
the French retreat, while Miloradovich was ordered to 
Medyn. The latter, however, disquieted by reports that 
the French army was moving from Borovsk by cross- 
roads upon Medyn, hesitated, delayed, and finally also 
moved to Adamovskoe. Kutuzov remained at the latter 
place during the 29th, endeavouring to envisage the 
situation, and finally appears to have decided that the 
Grande Arniee was retreating on Vitebsk. The conclusion 
was reasonable enough. The march of the French along 
the Borovsk-Mozhaisk road might certainly indicate an 
intention to cross the Smolensk road at Mozhaisk and 
take a route to the northward for Vitebsk — as Jomini 
considers that they should have done. Consequently 
upon the 30th Kutuzov marched northwards upon 
Mozhaisk. Platov with his Cossacks and Paskievich's 
division was to follow the French rear-guard. The 
advance-guard would move parallel with the French left 
flank, while the Corps de Bataille kept to the left of the 
advance-guard, generally at about a day's march dis- 
tance. On the 30th the main army had reached Kremen- 
skoe, but by that day the French rear-guard had arrived 
at Mozhaisk and all the corps were moving along the 
highway to Smolensk. Kutuzov and Miloradovich 
therefore turned to the westward, while Platov and 
Paskievich harassed Davout. 

The result, therefore, was that the French army had 
at the outset gained a start upon their pursuers. Ben- 
nigsen says that he advised that the march should be 
directed from Adamovskoe on Yukhnov, thence by a 
broad road to Slavkovo. It seems clear that this direction 
would have been an excellent one. But Kutuzov knew 
that Napoleon was free to use the Medyn road, and 
indeed expected him to do so. He had, however, fallen 


back by Vereia, a direction which rather indicated an 
intention of retreating upon Vitebsk. If he had hoped 
by taking this route to deceive the Russians as to his 
line of march he had certainly succeeded. 

From Mozhaisk to Viasma the Moscow-Smolensk road 
proceeds generally in a shallow arc of a circle, often 
describing a very sinuous course. Miloradovich marched 
steadily to the south of it, gradually closing in, and mov- 
ing much faster than the already dwindling and straggling 
French army with its immense trains. Still farther to 
the south and far to the rear the Russian Corps de 
Bataille had turned in the right direction and was also 
marching for Viasma. The roads by which it was forced 
to proceed were wretched, but none the less the troops 
marched at a very creditable pace, covering some 74 
miles in 4 days. 

Meanwhile the Napoleonic host was making its way 
into and along the Moscow-Smolensk high-road. Junot's 
corps being actually on it when the retreat from Maloya- 
roslavetz began of course led the way; behind it came 
in succession the Guard, the 2nd and 4th Cavalry Corps, 
and the 3rd, 4th, and 1st Corps d'Artnee, while Ponia- 
towski covered the left flank. At Vereia, on the 27th, 
Mortier rejoined, bringing with him his prisoner, Win 
zingerode. Napoleon treated the general with gross inso- 
lence and brutality, overwhelming him with abuse, and 
actually condemned him to death as a traitor because 
he was a German and therefore a subject of one of his 
vassals ! It is difficult to say whether he was or was not in 
earnest. When he was enraged his manners were brutal 
beyond words ; and at this time he had every cause for 
being exasperated. In any case, he gave way to the 
remonstrances of Berthier and Murat. His conduct was 
otherwise inexcusable. Winzingerode had entered the 
service of Russia previous to the formation of the Rhine 
Confederacy. After being kept in suspense for some days 
Winzingerode was sent in custody to France ; but he 


was rescued in Lithuania by Cossacks, as we shall have 
occasion to mention. 

On the 28th Napoleon, at Mozhaisk, received a report 
from Davout that he had as yet seen no enemies but 
Cossacks. He thereupon inferred that the main Russian 
army was marching to cut his line of retreat. Its natural 
objective would in that case be Viasma, and the Emperor 
decided to push for that place with all speed with the 

On the evening of the 28th Davout was near Vereia. 
He reported that the Russians were already showing 
infantry — these were of course Paskievich's division. He 
begged the Emperor to put a stop to the wholesale burn- 
ing of villages by the corps ahead of him. Demoralisation 
was spreading fast, and the men were abandoning the 
ranks in crowds. The usual straggling array of march of 
the Napoleonic hosts was a bad preparation for a retreat 
in face of an enemy. The field of Borodino was crossed 
by the Guard at daybreak on the 29th. It still presented 
a fearful spectacle. Junot's men had been unable to bury 
many even of the French dead ; and the ground was 
strewn with rotting corpses mingled with the wreckage of 
the terrible struggle. The hospitals at Kolotskoi and else- 
where were mere charnel-houses in which the dead lay 
heaped with the living, amid pestilence, filth, and destitu- 
tion. About 1500 unhappy creatures still remained, 
Junot having been unable to remove them. Napoleon 
issued an order that every private carriage or other non- 
military vehicle was to carry one or two. Its effect was 
simply to hasten the end of the unfortunate invalids, who 
were so much additional encumbrance to men already 
beginning to feel the pinch of want. They were aban- 
doned by the drivers at the earliest opportunity : some 
apparently were murdered outright ; not one, probably, 
lived to reach Smolensk. Food was becoming scarce. As 
far as Mozhaisk the country was not entirely devastated, 
and the leading troops had been able to feed their horses ; 

law , , ; i* 

w* ' 



& • 



^ *♦ 

1/ - J 

By permission of 


the Berlin Photographic Co. 


From the picture by Verestchagin 


but there was nothing for the rear-guard, whose plight 
was rendered all the worse by the reckless destruction of 
shelter by the corps ahead of them. After Mozhaisk the 
wasted countryside afforded little or no forage ; the 
horses, already exhausted and overworked, were reduced 
to such substitutes for fodder as thatch and autumn 
leaves, and died by hundreds every day. The destruction 
of the means of transport meant the loss of much of the 
already too scanty supply of food. When it was not lost 
outright it was pillaged by the stragglers and simply 
served to keep alive these useless beings, while better and 
braver men died of starvation. By November 3rd such 
supplies as had been brought were almost entirely ex- 
hausted ; the only resource of the starving horde was the 
flesh of the horses which were continually breaking down. 
The officers, of course, and the head-quarters, were better 
provided ; and some of the men had still remains of their 
plunder, but these were the exceptions. 

The weather was still fine, but it was steadily growing 
colder, and the half-famished men, ill-clothed, ill-shod, 
weary with marching, obtained little rest in their chilly 
bivouacs, and became day by day less able to endure 
their trials. Those who left the line of march were 
commonly slaughtered or captured. Capture was often 
the same thing as lingering death. The peasants, naturally 
half barbarous, and maddened by the excesses of the in- 
vaders, showed little mercy. Sir Robert Wilson tells from 
his own knowledge how they burned and buried alive 
their prisoners. Sometimes they were massacred by the 
women. Even when their lives were spared they were 
often wholly or partially stripped, and the effect upon 
frames enfeebled by privation was generally fatal. It is 
useless to dwell in detail upon the hideous barbarities 
perpetrated, still less is it profitable to reprobate them. 
It must be said that if there be but too much testimony 
to the barbarity of the infuriated Russians, there is also 
plenty of evidence as to their frequent kindliness and 


humanity. At their worst be it remembered that they 
were but retaliating for their own wrongs. 

The mass of disbanded troops, which every day grew 
at the expense of those who remained faithful, consisted 
in the first place of men already weakened, who therefore 
fell out early and of course died. Then there were many 
who had not the spirit to bear up under their misery and 
wandered along in the crowd until they also fell and died. 
Lastly, there were large numbers who were simply de- 
serters — often of the worst kind — men who left the ranks 
before they were disabled and subsisted by murder and 
robbery. They did more than anything to destroy the 
army. Some of the leaders of the faithful troops were 
aware of it. De Fezensac tells how he ordered that no 
mercy or consideration was to be shown them. 

On the other hand, there were very many gallant 
soldiers of every rank who kept their ranks and did their 
duty to the bitter end. Russian eye-witnesses were full 
of admiration at the martial bearing of the scanty and 
ever dwindling battalions which, with eagles in their 
midst, moved doggedly on through the miserable horde 
of skulkers. The officers, with few exceptions, remained 
firm to their duty. Their intellectual and educational 
level was upon the whole naturally higher than that of 
their men, and general good conduct among them was to 
be expected. They were, too, generally better supplied 
with food and clothing, and exercised more judgment in 
providing themselves. 

The extent to which demoralisation affected the 
strategic units of the army is difficult to decide ; and the 
task is a somewhat invidious one. The 3rd Corps cer- 
tainly appears to have kept the best order and discipline. 
It had taken a very small part in the demoralising sack of 
Moscow ; but a great deal of its persistent good conduct 
must be attributed to the personal influence of its chief. 
The 1st Corps, on the other hand, seems to have crumbled 
early. Davout was not a very sympathetic personage, 






— 1 


"i i 









1 1 






and perhaps the care which he had always taken of his 
men, and his firm discipline, really unfitted them to bear 
the strain of being in a condition of inferiority to the 
enemy. At any rate the early demoralisation of the 
1st Corps is an established fact. The 4th Corps also rapidly 
disbanded, as did also, apparently, the 5th and 8th. Of 
the cavalry we hear little. The Guard took the lion's 
share of whatever food and shelter was to be had ; never- 
theless its conduct was not relatively better than that of 
the 3rd Corps — perhaps not so good, since it never 
experienced the same trials. 

Napoleon, with the Guard, reached Viasma on Octo- 
ber 31st. The cold on this day was greater than it had 
hitherto been ; and the Emperor donned a Polish dress 
of green, heavily furred, and a fur cap. At Viasma was 
General Evers' column of drafts. There was also in the 
place a small magazine of bread, biscuit, flour, and rice. 
It was pillaged by the leading troops, and so great was the 
demoralisation that much of the town was destroyed, 
though thousands tramping painfully behind were thus 
deprived of shelter. On this day the Guard, the 2nd 
and 4th Cavalry Corps, and Junot's Corps were about 
Viasma ; Ney one march short of it ; Eugene and Ponia- 
towski about Gzhatsk, and Davout at Gridnevo. The 
line was nearly 70 miles long from front to rear. Milorado- 
vich was near at hand with his cavalry, but his infantry 
could not arrive before the 3rd. Kutuzov also was 
marching for Viasma, but was still 60 miles distant. 

Davout 's slow withdrawal was doubtless dictated by a 
desire to save as much as possible of the artillery and 
trains ; but in the circumstances it was impossible to do 
much, and it would have been better to abandon at once 
everything that fell behind. Lack of shelter, inadequate 
food, and the steady harassing of Platov was rapidly 
breaking up the 1st Corps. It had already abandoned 
20 guns and much of its trains ; the roads were dotted 
with men and horses dead of fatigue. 


Napoleon remained for 36 hours at Viasma, principally 
occupied with desk-work. He informed the generals in 
the rear of his retrograde march, representing it as a 
purely voluntary movement made to come into touch 
with his wings. From Baraguay d'Hilliers he learned 
that he had advanced to Selnia, and despatched orders 
for him to return to Smolensk. From Victor he became 
aware that the 9th Corps had been forced to support 
St. Cyr. 

General Ilovaiski IV, temporarily commanding Win- 
zingerode's detachment, had reoccupied Moscow on 
October 23rd. He found there some 1500 sick and 
wounded whom Mortier had been unable to evacuate, and 
42 mounted guns, of which 24 were French. 

Ney's corps reached Viasma on November 1st. Milora- 
dovich continued to move parallel to the road, hastening 
the march of his infantry and anxious to strike a blow. 
At 11 a.m. on the 2nd Napoleon left for Semlevo. Davout 
in the evening arrived at a point about 9 miles from 
Viasma and a little more than 1 east of the village of 
Federovskoie. Eugene and Poniatowski were between 
Viasma and Federovskoie. Ney was to take over rear- 
guard duty as soon as Davout should pass Viasma. 
Napoleon was angry with the slowness of the latter ; but 
the orders which he issued to hasten the march of the 
trains could not be executed owing to the deplorable 
state of the horses. The orders to prevent straggling were 
equally impossible of execution. None the less, Davout 
had certainly moved very slowly, and there was some 
excuse for the Emperor's irritated remark that " the 
Prince of Eckmuhl keeps the Viceroy and Poniatowski 
waiting for every band of Cossacks that he sees." In 
justice to Davout it must be said that the young and 
inexperienced Eugene appears often to have delayed him 
by his own lack of speed. 

At 8 a.m. on the 3rd Miloradovich with Korff's and 
Vassilchikov's divisions reached Maximo vo, a village 


some 2 miles from Federovskoie, and about 1 mile south 
of the high-road. Davout was passing through Federov- 
skoie, his leading division — Gerard's — being nearly abreast 
of Maximovo. The Hussars of Akhtyrka, supported by a 
brigade of dragoons, boldly charged the head of Gerard's 
column, while the Russian horse artillery opened a brisk 
cannonade on his flank. The 2nd Corps could not come 
into action before ten ; while Kutuzov was only just 
leaving Dubna, nearly 30 miles from Viasma. 

Gerard's division, attacked without warning, was 
checked in its march upon Viasma. Platov was close on 
Davout 's rear, and as soon as he heard the sound of 
Miloradovich's cannonade he pressed home his advance, 
Paskievich marching straight upon Fedorovskoie, while 
Platov turned it on the left. Davout saw that there was 
not a moment to lose in clearing the way before the arrival 
of Miloradovich's infantry, and hurried his divisions up 
at the double to support Gerard. Eugene turned back 
to his colleague's support, while Poniatowski took up a 
position in advance of Viasma to support Eugene. Ney 
posted his corps to the right of the town, behind the 
Viasma river ; he threw a bridge across it in order to 
facilitate the retirement of his colleagues' trains. The 
river makes an acute angle a little south of the town, so 
that Ney had it both before and behind him ; he threw 
a second bridge over it to assure his own retreat. 

Miloradovich had available for the conflict the 2nd 
and 4th Army Corps, Paskievich 's division of the 7th 
and Platov's Flying Corps, perhaps 30,000 or 32,000 
combatants in all, with some 120 guns. The estimates 
of the French force vary. Davout may have had 20,000 
infantry and artillery, Eugene perhaps 15,000, Ney 
probably 8000, Poniatowski about 3500. The remains 
of the corps cavalry and of the 1st and 3rd Reserve Corps 
probably could not muster 4000 mounted men. The 
artillery could still count over 300 guns, but the worn-out 
state of their teams rendered them incapable of manceuv- 


ring. The troops, with the exception of those of Ney, 
were demoralised. 

Davout's troops, ranged in dense battalion columns, 
attacked the Russian cavalry on the road and broke 
through, scattering the hostile squadrons, some of which 
had to retreat towards the north to join Platov. This 
appears to have occurred at about 10 a.m. Paskievich 
meanwhile had carried Federovskoie, and Platov was 
harassing the French on the right ; while Prince Eugen's 
division of the 2nd Corps formed across the road just as 
the Russian horsemen gave way and poured a heavy 
fire into the head of Davout's column. The Marshal's 
position was extremely critical. The Viceroy, however, 
was now close at hand with Broussier's and Guilleminot's 
divisions and the 5th Corps. He cannonaded the flank 
and rear of the 4th Division and attacked it with a cloud 
of skirmishers. Its commander believed that he could 
hold his own, but Miloradovich was of a different opinion, 
and, seeing the force which was coming from Viasma, he 
was probably correct. Eugen drew back into line with 
the rest of the Russian infantry on the south of the road, 
and Davout's troops were able to defile past. But they 
had suffered considerably, and the disorder among them 
was increased by the cannonade beneath which they had 
to march. The trains streamed away to the north of the 
road to reach Viasma, while the 1st Corps inclined to the 
south to come into line with the 4th and 5th Corps. 
Eugene formed across the road with Poniatowski in 
support ; but as Platov spread to the north he threw back 
his left wing. Davout's troops were on Eugene's left, 
nearly parallel with the line of the road. To support and 
steady them Ney advanced Razout's division, while 
Ledru's remained to check Uvarov, who was now coming 
up with Kutuzov's advance-guard. Uvarov, however, 
who had only the bulk of Golitzin's Cuirassiers under 
his command, could only confine himself to a desultory 
cannonade. The head of Kutuzov's column reached 


Bykovo, 5 miles from Viasma, in the afternoon, but it 
had marched 22 miles already and could hardly engage 
that day. 

Miloradovich, after Davout had passed, deployed his 
whole force across the road and marched forward, 
Eugen's, Paskievich's and Choglokov's divisions in first 
line, the remaining two in reserve, Platov pushing forward 
on the right, Korff and Vassilchikov in reserve and on the 
left. The French generals, fearing that at any moment 
Kutuzov might debouch in their rear, held a conference 
on the road, and decided to retreat. The final withdrawal 
commenced at about 2 p.m. Eugene and Poniatowski 
succeeded in passing through the town in fair order ; 
but Davout's shaken troops fell back in confusion, hotly 
pressed by Paskievich and Choglokov. Ney covered the 
retreat of his colleague to the utmost of his power, and 
retired through Viasma, burning such of it as remained 
intact. The French bivouacked in the woods on the 
west of the town. The night proved bitterly cold. 

The French losses are usually stated at 4000 killed and 
wounded. Those of the Russians may have amounted 
to 2500. Miloradovich captured 3 guns and about 2000 
prisoners, besides some thousands of the disbanded mob. 
Among the prisoners was General Pellet ier, commanding 
the artillery of the 5th Corps. The French writers 
attribute the defeat mainly to Davout's error in inclining 
to his right as he fell back instead of his left, but it is 
doubtful whether this was more than a subsidiary cause. 

On the 4th Kutuzov remained inactive at Bykovo. 
His troops may have needed rest, but it is extraordinary 
that he made no attempt to crush or at least to harass 
the weary, half-starved and beaten French army behind 
the Viasma. Perhaps he was imposed upon by Ney's 
bold show in the rear, and the good order of the un- 
demoralised 3rd Corps. It is perhaps difficult to judge 
him, since we can scarcely appreciate the vast influence 
exercised by the prestige of the Napoleonic army upon 


the minds of its opponents everywhere save in Britain. 
But to say the least, he could and should have done much 

Ney, early on the 4th, took up a strong position on 
the edge of the woods. Beurmann was detached to the 
right to observe Uvarov, whom he held in check during 
the day. Meanwhile the 1st, 4th and 5th Corps defiled 
on the road to Dorogobuzh. All were in the greatest 
disorder. The men were worn out with fatigue and 
appeared hopelessly discouraged, only the Royal Guard 
of Italy still marched in fair order. The number of 
stragglers, of whom the majority had thrown away their 
arms, was enormous. Ney was much impressed by the 
disorder of the 1st Corps, and his despatch upon the 
battle contained some bitter remarks upon it, as well as 
the haphazard conduct of the engagement. 

The substitution of the 3rd Corps for the 1st rear-guard 
duty was another proof that Napoleon did not really 
understand the critical state of affairs. Ney was an ideal 
rear-guard leader, and the 3rd Corps was an intact and 
undiscouraged force, but it consisted of only two divisions 
(the Wtirttemberg troops having been amalgamated with 
the other two) as against the five of the 1st. 

At daybreak on the 5th the 3rd Corps withdrew in 
good order, but followed and impeded by at least 4000 
disbanded men of the other corps. De Fezensac, in 
bivouac that night, ordered all able-bodied skulkers to 
be driven away by force from the fires. Near Semlevo 
there was an action with the leading troops of Milorado- 
vich, but the 3rd Corps was not molested on the 6th. 
Kutuzov, had he pushed forward on the 4th, would cer- j 
tainly have destroyed Ney and probably Eugene also. 
The Russians were so strong in cavalry that they could '■ 
always retard the French retreat by employing it vigor- 
ously to harass the moving columns. However this may 
be, Kutuzov on the 5th bent south-westward to Ielnia, 
while Miloradovich and Platov continued to follow and 


harass the French rear-guard. Many stragglers were 
slain or taken by the Cossacks and waggons were aban- 
doned in numbers ; but no impression was made upon 
Ney's corps, which continued its march to Dorogobuzh 
and there took up a position. 

Napoleon had intended to receive battle east of 
Dorogobuzh. His plan appears in his correspondence, 
and it can only be characterised as utterly impracticable. 
It assumed that the whole Russian Army was following 
on the main road, and also counted upon being able to 
ambuscade their advance-guard. Even had the army 
been less reduced and demoralised this would have been 
impossible, the Russians being so strong in cavalry. The 
plan was not executed ; by the time that he had drawn 
it up Napoleon had probably read Ney's despatch of the 
4th, in which the marshal stated his conviction that only 
a part of the Russian army was at Viasma. Next day 
Ney reported that he had learned that Russian columns 
were passing him on the right ; and Napoleon retreated 
with the Guard upon Mikalevka. 

On the 6th and 7th the weather, which had hitherto 
been by day comparatively mild, changed for the worse, 
with violent gales and heavy snowstorms. After this 
the destruction of the army proceeded apace. The 
horses were the first to suffer ; it was impossible to 
obtain any forage with the ground covered deep with 
snow. No provision had been made for rough-shoeing 
the horses, except by the Polish cavalry ; and on the 
slippery surface of the trodden snow they fell in hundreds, 
to be preyed upon by the starving troops. Vehicles of 
every kind had to be abandoned ; and each was instantly 
plundered by a group of wolfish stragglers, often to the 
accompaniment of murder. The number of disbanded 
men rapidly increased, and their lawlessness and savagery 
grew even more quickly. Had it been possible to main- 
tain better discipline the state of the army might have 
been less intolerable. Terrible as the conditions were, 


they could have been somewhat ameliorated had there 
been a better sense of comradeship among the troops, 
which might have prevented so many of them from dis- 
banding and degenerating into veritable wild beasts. 

But in truth the misery was so great that the finest 
loyalty and steadiness could not greatly have alleviated 
it. Had there been a sufficiency of even the coarsest 
food, the troops might have withstood the cold. But 
almost the only resource remaining was the unwholesome 
flesh of the worn-down horses. Even the officers were 
often little better off as regards meat, though they could 
still procure small quantities of biscuit or flour. The 
troops as a whole were insufficiently clad and, above all, 
ill-shod ; those who succeeded in obtaining a little food 
were often disabled by frost-bite or injuries to their ill- 
protected feet. In the hope of guarding against the 
deadly cold the men overloaded themselves with clothing 
of every kind and quality, often filthy rags torn from the 
dead and dying. In their fear of taking a fatal chill 
they never removed them even for necessary purposes, 
and dared not wash. In their ravening hunger they ate 
like wild beasts, tearing the raw or half-cooked horse- 
flesh with their teeth, and covering themselves and their 
wretched garments with blood and offal. Their appear- 
ance soon became indescribably hideous, and the result 
of their panic-born neglect was, of course, loathsome 
disease. Selfishness increased with misery ; men thrust 
their weaker comrades from the bivouac fires, and 
fought for the wretched carrion on which they strove to 
maintain their existence ; while those who fell were 
robbed and stripped by passers-by. 

Amid all this misery and lack of self-respect there was 
much that redounds to the credit of human nature. 
Many soldiers added to their hardships by endeavouring 
to assist the women and children who followed the army. 
Officers who possessed private carriages gave them up to 
these unhappy fugitives ; those attached to the head- 


quarters, which was better provided than the rest of the 
army, succeeded in saving many. Unhappily the most 
necessary requisite was food, and this the chivalrous 
protectors could not often give their charges. The hardy 
female followers could protect and provide for themselves 
to some extent, but too many of the officers' wives or 
connections were utterly helpless, and their fate was a 
piteous one. 

One of the most awful incidents of the retreat was the 
fate of the Russian prisoners, of whom some 2000 — 
stragglers, comvalescents, and civilians — were dragged 
with the army, under a guard made up of fragments and 
detachments of every nation. From the first the captives 
were treated with gross cruelty and neglect. The weakly 
ones who fell behind were done to death without mercy. 
Every night the survivors were huddled together, tireless, 
on the bare ground, without food save a little raw horse- 
flesh. Before long even this was not forthcoming, and the 
miserable prisoners, driven along and herded together 
like wild beasts by men who were losing the traces of 
humanity, perished amid horrible misery. Cannibalism 
is said to have raged among them. There is no darker 
stain on the escutcheon of Napoleon (who must be held 
ultimately responsible) than this treatment of men who 
were at any rate open enemies, and some of whom were 
not even combatants. 

Day by day the number of men in the ranks dwindled. 
Every bivouac was the graveyard of hundreds of men 
and thousands of horses ; the line of march resembled a 
long battlefield. The roads were strewn with dead or 
dying men and horses, abandoned guns and vehicles, and 
wreckage of every kind. Amid this streamed westward 
in wild confusion the endless procession of disbanded men 
and male and female camp-followers, accompanied by 
vehicles of all kinds, through which the troops still with 
the colours could scarcely force their way. Many men 
were already so weak that they could hardly stumble 


along. Some became idiotic with privation and the 
spectacle of the misery about them. The plight of the 
troops in the ranks was no better ; their devotion to 
duty only prolonged their sufferings. Ill-clad, starving, 
stricken with cold and disease, often half-blind from the 
effects of the glaring snow by day and the smoke of the 
fires at night, it is wonderful that they ever managed, as 
they did, to make some kind of fight. Their duties, 
when they had strength to carry them out, were confined 
to beating off the hovering Cossacks, and to destroying 
guns and waggons that would otherwise have been 

From Dorogobuzh Eugene's corps was diverted towards 
Dukhovchina with the intention of directing it thence 
upon Vitebsk to relieve the pressure upon Victor by 
Wittgenstein. The result was its practical destruction. 

On November 7th Eugen of Wiirttemberg attacked 
Razout's division before Dorogobuzh and after some 
obstinate fighting, partly owing to the indecision of its 
short-sighted commander, forced it to retreat through 
the town with a loss of several hundred men and 4 guns. 
Ney, who had hoped to delay Miloradovich for a day, was 
obliged to fall back otwards Smolensk. Dorogobuzh 
was choked with disbanded men, who were ruthlessly 
murdered or stripped by the exasperated inhabitants. 
A watchmaker boasted of having killed 11 Frenchmen 
with a knife which he had concealed for the purpose ! 
Miloradovich, however, was then obliged to draw off his 
infantry towards the south for the sake of food and 
shelter against the cold. He left the pursuit of Ney to 
Major-General Yurkovski with a brigade of dragoons and 
some Cossacks, while Platov followed Eugene towards 

At Mikalevka Napoleon learned of Malet's audacious 
conspiracy in Paris, and the tidings doubtless did not tend 
to relieve his mind. On the 8th Junot's corps arrived at 
Smolensk ; but the day before that ruined town had 


been invaded by crowds of disbanded troops. Junot 
was not allowed to pass his corps into it, and cantoned it 
in villages on the Mstislavl road. Napoleon himself 
arrived on the 9th, only to be met by bad news from 
every side. 

Victor was proving unable to hold back Wittgenstein. 
Baraguay d'Hilliers' division, as has been related, had 
pushed out to Ielnia, and was retiring upon Smolensk, 
when on this day his rear-guard brigade, 2000 strong, 
under General Augereau, was surrounded in the village 
of Liakhova by Orlov - Denisov, with his own flying 
detachment and those of Davidov, Seslavin, and Figner. 
Augereau was without artillery, and not being supported 
by Baraguay d'Hilliers, who showed great irresolution, 
was forced to surrender. Baraguay d'Hilliers retreated 
hastily to Smolensk with the rest of his division, and was 
very properly ordered home for trial. Besides Augereau' s 
brigade several depots or posts of troops were captured 
by the Russian advanced detachments. Kutuzov 
reached Chelkanovo on the Smolensk-Mstislavl road, 
about 25 miles from Smolensk, on the 12th. He had not 
marched very rapidly — some 120 miles in 9 days — but 
it is true that both roads and weather were terrible. The 
Russians were well clothed and fairly well fed ; but 
many of the Russian troops were young, and the snowy 
bivouacs had disastrous effects upon their unformed 

On this same disastrous day, the 9th, Eugene's corps, 
after 3 days' struggling through the snow, reached the 
small river Vop, only 30 miles from Dorogobuzh. The 
Viceroy had already lost 1200 of his remaining horses and 
much of his artillery. He had sent on a detachment to 
bridge the stream, but materials were lacking, and the 
wretched soldiers were forced to wade. The Royal Guard 
led the way, with Eugene in their midst, with ice and 
water up to their waists, formed on the opposite bank 
and drove away Platov's vanguard, which was already 


across. Platov himself was tormenting the rear-guard 
with his light artillery, and threatening the unhappy 
column in flank and rear. When Eugene had crossed an 
effort was made to bring over the artillery and baggage. 
The steep banks of the stream had been hurriedly made 
practicable for vehicles, but the inclines were quickly 
covered with ice ; the ford was soon choked by guns 
and waggons sticking fast in the mud, and eventually 
all but the small proportion which crossed first had to be 
abandoned. There were terrible scenes on the bank when 
this became known. A turmoil of fighting, pillage and 
murder reigned. Many worn-out soldiers, struggling 
through the icy water, were overcome by the cold and 
drowned : many others died in the night. Broussier's 
division covered the rear against Platov all night, and 
only crossed on the morning of the 10th, leaving behind 
them many sick and wounded, a vast quantity of baggage 
and some 60 guns. Hundreds of men, overcome by cold, 
threw away their arms. The bulk of the corps streamed 
along the road to Dukhovchina completely disorganised ; 
only the Royal Guard and Broussier's division still moved 
with some show of order. Dukhovchina was already 
occupied by Cossacks — the leading regiments of Winzin- 
gerode's old detachment, now under Major-General 
Golenischev-Kutuzov. They, however, of course had 
to retire before the advance of the Royal Guard, and 
Eugene occupied the town. It had not yet been plun- 
dered, and the exhausted remnants of the 4th Corps were 
able to obtain food and a little rest. On the 12th Eugene 
set fire to Dukhovchina and retreated on Smolensk, 
where he arrived on the 13th, surrounded and harassed 
all the way by the indefatigable Cossacks. He had with 
the colours only 6000 or 7000 armed men, and 20 guns at 
most out of over 100. 
Davout's and Poniatowski's 1 troops made their way 

1 Poniatowski had met with an accident, and General Zayonczek com- 
manded the 5th Corps. 


from Viasma to Smolensk with little opposition from the 
Russians, but disintegrating day by day under the 
influence of cold, fatigue and hunger. The Poles seem to 
have completely broken up, and only about 800 privates 
reached Smolensk. On the other hand, they saved a 
large proportion of their artillery, owing to their sensible 
precautions in rough-shoeing their horses. 

Ney reached the Dnieper at Solovievo on the 19th. 
The approach to the bridge was choked for more than 
half a mile with abandoned guns and waggons ; and 
before passing Ney ordered his men to fire them. In 
doing so they came upon some remnants of food supplies 
and some spirits. In the woods on both sides of the road 
were thousands of stragglers, largely wounded, whom the 
omnipresent Cossacks massacred and plundered under 
the very eyes of their comrades. In the evening the 3rd 
Corps passed the river and destroyed the bridge. It 
defended the passage against Yurkovski's brigade, the 
Cossacks, and some supporting infantry, until the 12th, 
and then retreated on Smolensk, in weather so awful 
that even the Russian Lowenstern speaks of it as some- 
thing exceptional. It was impossible to halt for fear of 
freezing, while the icebound road was fatal to hundreds 
of exhausted men. A terrible night in bivouac put the 
capstone on the sufferings of the devoted 3rd Corps. On 
the 4th it entered Smolensk — some 4000 men left of more 
than 11,000 who had marched from Moscow. 

It is now necessary to turn aside to follow the fortunes 
of Napoleon's wings. On October 29th Victor joined 
Merle at Chasniki, at the junction of the little river 
Lukomlia with the Ula, about 17 miles south-west of 
Bechenkowiczi. Dandels had already joined Legrand. 
Wittgenstein and Steingell united at Lepel on the same 
day and reached the Ula on the 30th. They were, 
however, owing to the detachment of Vlastov's division, 
not more than 33,000 strong, while the 2nd and 9th Corps, 
even in the absence of Corbineau, mustered 36,000 


infantry and 4000 cavalry. Victor therefore decided to 
attack, and sent to call in Dandels and Legrand. Owing 
to misunderstandings, however, neither Legrand nor the 
cavalry of the 9th Corps arrived, and Victor hesitated to 
attack. Wittgenstein drove Victor's advance troops over 
the Lukomlia, and brought a mass of artillery into action, 
which gained the advantage over the French guns. After 
a long cannonade the action died away, and before dawn 
on November 1st Victor retreated upon Sienno, about 
25 miles east of Chasniki. He had suffered no reverse, 
and, indeed, had hardly engaged his troops. He may 
have thought, as De Chambray says, that it would be 
better to temporise until he was reinforced by Napoleon. 
Wittgenstein did not pursue, but moved Harpe's division 
towards Bechenkowiczi to observe Victor's movements. 
The latter, after remaining for two days at Sienno, turned 
south-westward to Chereia, about 20 miles north of the 
Smolensk-Minsk road at Bobr. Whether this move was 
due to his fear for the highway cannot be determined, but 
the result was disastrous. On November 7th Harpe 
attacked Vitebsk, which was now uncovered. The small 
garrison, under General Pouget, was either killed or 

On October 29th, Chichagov started from Brest-Litovsk 
for Minsk. To hold back Schwarzenberg he left with 
Sacken the divisions of Bulatov, Lieven, and Essen III, 
a total of about 27,000 combatants, with 96 guns. Under 
his own command were the 2 corps of Vo'inovand Sabaniev, 
forming together the Corps de Bataille under Langeron, 
and two advance-guards commanded by Lambert and 
Chaplitz — 33,000 men with 180 guns. Chichagov sent 
orders to Ertel to advance from Mozyr to meet him. 
General Musin Pushkin was left with 4000 or 5000 men 
to guard the Volhynian frontier. The Admiral left 
Pruzhani on the 30th and reached Slonim on No- 
vember 3rd. He might have moved more rapidly, but 
he explained to the Tzar that he hoped to draw 


Schwarzenberg upon him and be able to strike hard at 
him before marching upon Minsk. He waited about 
Slonim until November 8th in this expectation, then, 
feeling that further delay would be dangerous, started 
for Minsk. He had, in fact, waited too long already. 

Schwarzenberg, having left Kosinski's Poles to cover 
Warsaw and one of Durutte's regiments to garrison that 
capital, concentrated the rest of his army at Bieloslok, 
and marched for Volkovisk, which he reached on Novem- 
ber 8th, Chichagov being nearly 60 miles in advance with 
his way clear before him. On the 14th Schwarzenberg was 
at Slonim with his Austrians, while Reynier and Durutte 
were at Volkovisk. Sacken broke up from Brest-Litovsk 
on November 1st. He left Colonel Witte with 3 battalions 
and 2 newly joined Cossack regiments to cover his base, 
and marched for Volkovisk. Between him and his 
objective lay the extensive forest of Bielovezhi, which he 
had to skirt, but on November 12 th he was nearing Vol- 
kovisk, throwing forward his right in order to interpose 
between Schwarzenberg and Reynier. The latter, fearing 
to be assailed in flank, fell back upon Volkovisk. 

Volkovisk lies upon the right bank of the river Rossi, 
which flows northward to the Niemen. Hard by the town 
a rivulet entered the Rossi. Both were now frozen. 
North of the town are some low heights, and on these the 
bulk of Reynier's army was posted ; but his head- 
quarters were in Volkovisk itself. 

Sacken decided that his best course was to vigorously 
attack Reynier, so as, at least, to bring back Schwarzen- 
berg to his assistance. It was a bold but perilous resolve, 
since Sacken was not greatly superior even to Reynier 
in numbers, and might be taken in rear by the Austrians. 
In the night of the I4th-i5th his advance-guard surprised 
Volkovisk, driving out its garrison and nearly capturing 
Reynier. The advance of the Russian column, however, 
was then checked by Durutte. 

On the 15th Reynier took up a position behind the 


town, his right, consisting of Saxons, resting on the wooded 
bank of the Rossi, Durutte in the centre, and more 
Saxons on the left. Sacken was drawn up south of the 
town, with Bulatov on the right, Essen in the centre, and 
Lieven on the left. 

Early on the 15th Durutte retook Volkovisk. Sacken 
did not attempt to recover it. The day passed in desultory 
cannonading, except on Reynier's left, where the Russian 
cavalry of Bulatov's corps, under Melissino, endeavoured 
to take advantage of a movement of Saxon infantry to 
charge, but was handsomely repulsed by their horsemen. 

Schwarzenberg, informed of Sacken's advance, left 
Frimont with about 7000 men at Slonim, and returned 
towards Volkovisk with the remaining 18,000. On the 
15th his advance-guard was already well on the way ; 
but Sacken, misled by the false reports of some prisoners, 
decided to press home his attack upon Reynier. On the 
16th he recaptured Volkovisk, and about midday 
developed a heavy attack upon Reynier's left, when 
guns were heard on the road to Slonim nearly in rear 
of Sacken's centre, and fugitives from the guards of 
baggage which had been sent there announced that 
Schwarzenberg was at hand. Sacken at once began to 
withdraw towards the left, first Lieven, then Essen, 
finally Bulatov. It was dark before even Essen began his 
march, and the army retreated safely to Svislozh on the 
Brest-Litovsk road. 

He was hotly pursued by Schwarzenberg and Reynier, 
the latter following him on the main road, while Schwar- 
zenberg threatened to turn his right, and interpose 
between him and the Bielovezhi Forest. During the 
next ten days there was constant rear-guard fighting, 
though never of a very severe description, as Sacken 
made his way back towards Brest-Litovsk. On the 25th 
he took up a position to cover that place, but his opponents 
were manifestly too strong for him, and on the 26th it was 
reoccupied by Reynier. The net result of Sacken's 


operations was that he had drawn Schwarzenberg far 
away from the decisive point on the Berezina. On the 
25th the Austrian general received a letter from Maret 
at Vilna, bidding him turn back to support Napoleon. 
This he at once did, but whatever he might or might not 
wish it was now far too late. On the 27th, when he set 
out to remeasure his steps, Napoleon was already crossing 
the Berezina, threatened by Chichagov and Wittgenstein. 
Sacken's losses during his brief campaign had been heavy, 
though certainly they had not approached the figure of 
10,000, at which the French estimated them. He had 
lost also a considerable part of his trains. The losses of 
his opponents were perhaps about 3000 killed, wounded, 
and prisoners. The importance of the strategic success 
of the Russians is not, however, to be expressed in terms of 

The remains of the central Napoleonic army were 
collected at Smolensk by November 13th. The leading 
troops had thus some five days' rest from marching, but 
little alleviation of their misery. There had been some 
1500 beef-cattle in the villages round the town, but most 
of these were swept up by the Cossacks who preceded 
the march of the main Russian army. In Smolensk itself 
there were considerable stores of flour, grain, and brandy 
— probably enough to supply the remains of the army 
for several days. There was also a certain quantity of 
biscuit, rice, and dried vegetables. The Guard as usual 
was unduly favoured. Napoleon ordered that it should 
have 15 days' supplies issued to it, while the other un- 
happy corps were only to have six. Judging, however, 
from narratives of members of the Guard, it never re- 
ceived anything like the amount ordered. The men, 
hungry and improvident, seem to have largely gorged 
themselves on their rations ; a good many sold them at 
exorbitant prices to others ; in this way the survivors of 
Preising's Bavarian horsemen were able to obtain a little 
food. Portable mills, which had by this time begun to 


arrive, were also issued. Even in their misery the soldiers 
made bitter jests at this provision for grinding flour which 
was not to be had. Shelter there was little. Eye-wit- 
nesses give grim accounts of the wretchedness within the 
walls. As corps after corps reached the town in their 
misery the hospitals were choked with sick and wounded, 
who were literally heaped into these dens of horror 
without provision of any kind. The cold was worse than 
it yet had been, and the men were frost-bitten by hun- 
dreds. It was fortunate for Napoleon that a thaw set in 
on the 14th. While in the town the troops had at any rate 
food enough for immediate needs, the troops of Junot 
and Zayonczek in the villages outside were left unpro- 
vided for, with the result that they pillaged such convoys 
as passed near them, and ate hundreds of serviceable 

The army received indeed considerable reinforcements 
at Smolensk. Baraguay d'Hilliers' column was distri- 
buted among the corps as they arrived. The Vistula 
Legion was joined by its 3rd battalions, Ney's corps by 
the 129th Regiment and that of Illyria. It is difficult to 
state the strength of the army on the 14th, but it may be 
perhaps estimated at nearly 60,000 men. The Guard 
still retained about 2500 badly mounted horsemen ; all 
the other cavalry divisions did not muster more than 
3000 mounted men between them. The remnant of the 
Cavalry Reserve — some 2000 sabres — was collected under 
the command of Latour-Maubourg. Much of the artillery, 
which had been so far dragged along, could no longer 
proceed, and 140 pieces were abandoned in Smolensk. 

On the 13th the remains of Eugene's corps poured in 
wild confusion into the town. An issue of rations was 
commenced, but the starving men broke from control 
and pillaged the magazines. Order was restored by 
desperate exertions, but there had been much damage 
and waste of precious food. Next day the 1st Corps 
flooded into Smolensk in a state as pitiable as that 

the Berlin Photographic Co. 


From the picture by Verestchagin 


of the 4th, and the disorder of this erstwhile best disci- 
plined of the army corps could not be restrained. The 
storehouses were broken open amid frenzied scenes of 
disorder and violence ; the miserable wretches mur- 
dered one another at the doors and in the streets. The 
provisions were pillaged, a great part of them being of 
course destroyed in the confusion. Nothing was left for 
Ney's brave men, who were sacrificing themselves to save 
the rest of the army, except such remnants as they could 
obtain by searching for them. 

Kutuzov meanwhile was advancing with a slowness 
and caution which exasperated the more eager of his 
subordinates and caused some of them to mutter angrily 
about treachery. On the 14th he marched 13 miles from 
Chelkanovo to Jurovo, and halted for a day. It may well 
be, as Clausewitz reasonably remarks, that his firmness 
was shaken by the deteriorating condition of his own 
army, which was suffering severely from the cold, and 
perishing in bivouac at an alarming rate, though, of 
course, less rapidly than the Grande Armee, since the 
soldiers were fairly well fed. This, however, would 
probably have impelled a younger and more energetic 
man to deal a deadly blow at his opponents before his 
own force melted away. Kutuzov, however, was un- 
doubtedly too old and infirm for the present crisis. 
Moreover, it is clear that the Russian scouts greatly over- 
rated the French numbers largely because the stragglers 
were frequently mistaken for fighting men. A good many 
of them still possessed weapons. Miloradovich left 
Choglokov's division to watch Ney before Smolensk, 
and himself with the bulk of his force moved round the 
town to join his commander-in-chief, while Platov 
moved past it on the north. On the 16th Kutuzov moved 
on to Chilova, 4J miles south-east of Krasnoi, and there 

On the 13th Napoleon directed Junot, with the 8th 
Corps and the remnant of the dismounted cavalry, and 


Zayonczek, with the 5th Corps, upon Krasnoi. Generals 
Eble and Jomini had already been sent forward with 
detachments of sappers to repair bridges and facilitate 
the march. But already the disbanded troops had drawn 
ahead of the organised bodies and were streaming along 
the highway, pillaging convoys and spreading disorder 
everywhere. There were small magazines of food at 
Krasnoi, Liadi, Tolochin, and other places, and a larger 
one at Orsha. The situation was thus in one sense less 
unfavourable than before. Unfortunately, however, the 
Russian army at Chilova was within easy reach of the 
high-road ; and now Napoleon, as though his evil-genius 
ever directed him in 1812 to do the wrong thing, moved 
the remains of his army along its front with a day's 
interval between its corps ! 

Claparede's Poles, escorting the treasure and head- 
quarters baggage, and the little left of the reserve 
artillery, followed Junot. On the 14th Napoleon left 
Smolensk with the Guard and Latour-Maubourg. Eugene 
was to leave on the 15th, Davout on the 16th, Ney on the 
17th, after destroying the ramparts. Davout was to 
reinforce Ney with one of his divisions. 

On the 14th Count Ozharovski's flying column entered 
Krasnoi, and began to destroy the stores collected there, 
but was driven out by Claparede's division, and withdrew 
to Uvarova, on the Lossmina, 2 miles to the south-east. 
Early on the 15th Miloradovich, with the 2nd and 7th 
Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division, reached Riavka, a 
little way west of Korythnia, just as Napoleon and the 
Guard were passing. He opened with his artillery, but 
did not venture to attack the infantry of the Guard, 
though the opportunity was surely worth seizing. He 
moved down into the road when the last closed bodies 
had passed, and picked up n abandoned guns and 2000 
stragglers. He then moved along the road to Merlino, 
and took position across it with his front covered by a 
rivulet, flowing as usual in a difficult gully. Napoleon 


reached Krasnoi in safety, and the Guard camped about 
the little town. 

Though a thaw was setting in this brought little relief 
to the sufferings of the Grande Armee. Snow fell heavily, 
and the fatigue of tramping through it was enormous, 
while the damp foggy weather told almost as heavily 
upon the men as the bitter cold of previous days. The 
horses appear to have completely broken down, when 
after some kind of rest they had to resume the road. 
The artillery of the Guard, the best appointed of the 
army, took 22 hours to cover the first 13 miles out of 
Smolensk, and on reaching Krasnoi 12 of the 24 horse 
guns had to be abandoned. Half of Latour-Maubourg's 
cavalry remnant were dismounted in 2 days, while 
divisions abandoned and destroyed their reserve parks 
wholesale, being utterly unable to get them through the 
broken country west of Smolensk. The ravine of the 
Lossmina, east of Krasnoi, was one of the most fatal to 
the trains ; guns, waggons and vehicles of every kind 
were literally heaped together to the east of it, where the 
road passed through a defile. 

Eugene left Smolensk on the 15th, but it was difficult 
to get the worn-down troops and their fatal incubus of 
non-combatants away from the town, and the 4th Corps 
by evening had only reached Lubna, about 7 or 8 miles on 
the road to Krasnoi. On the 16th it continued its march, 
harassed all the way by clouds of Cossacks. On the 
afternoon of the 16th it found its way barred by Milo- 
radovich, Kutuzov on the same day reaching Chilova. 
Napoleon appears at last to have awakened to the 
necessity of uniting his scattered columns, and remained 
at Krasnoi in order to allow the 4th, 1st and 3rd Corps 
to close up. Davout on this day left Smolensk with 4 
divisions, and Zayonczek arrived at Dubrovna. The 
shattered relics of the Grande Armee were thus scattered 
on a line of 60 miles. Even if the Poles and Junot be 
discounted, owing to their small numbers, the main 


force was spread over 30 miles of road, while Kutuzov, 
with his whole army, seriously reduced but in fine heart 
and fair condition, lay close to its head. 

Miloradovich, at Merlino, had the 2nd Corps, under 
Prince Dolgoruki, drawn up across the road, while 
Raievski lay parallel with it on the south. Uvarov's 
cavalry were in reserve. The relics of the 4th Corps 
totalled only some 6000 combatants and a few guns, 
besides about 1200 armed stragglers, whom Guilleminot 
succeeded in collecting and forming. These latter, 
however, were quickly repulsed, and driven behind the 
remains of the 4th Corps, which, with Broussier's division 
on the left, Phillipon's (formerly Delzons') in the centre 
and Pino's on the right, steadily awaited destruction, 
cheering defiantly in answer to the heavy cannonade of 
the Russians. Eugene, of course, rejected with disdain 
Miloradovich's proposal of surrender, and moved forward. 
Paskievich's extreme flank brigade was for a moment 
disordered by Broussier's gallant advance, but the attack 
was speedily repulsed, and only darkness saved the 
survivors of the 4th Corps. Leaving Broussier to cover 
the rear, Eugene filed the other divisions to the right and 
reached Krasnoi early on the 17th. He had only about 
4000 men left. The last guns had been captured, and 
Broussier's division almost annihilated. 

On the 16th, before daylight, Roguet's division of the 
Young Guard had expelled Ozharovski's detachment 
from the villages which it occupied to the south of 
Krasnoi. Roguet, of course, could not pursue his slight 
success, as the whole Russian army was now nearing 
Krasnoi, but its effect was to render Kutuzov more than 
ever cautious and circumspect. 

The arrival of Eugene convinced Napoleon that if 
Davout and Ney were to be saved he must make a stand 
in order to allow them to close up upon him. The 4th 
Corps was incapable of taking any part in the action, 
and he ordered it to defile on the road to Orsha. The 


infantry of the Guard was drawn up to the south of 
Krasnoi, Claparede's division in the town, Laborde in the 
centre, Roguet on the left near the Lossmina ravine. 
The Old Guard, the cavalry, and Latour-Maubourg's few 
remaining mounted troopers, with 30 guns were to move 
back towards Smolensk to meet Davout. Napoleon's 
total strength amounted to less than 18,000 men, of 
whom 2500 were cavalry in miserable condition ; while 
only the light artillery of the Young Guard could 
manoeuvre away from the road. 

Davout had left Smolensk on the 16th, and his leading 
division bivouacked for the night about 2 miles past 
Korythnia. There the Marshal learnt of Eugene's 
disaster. Sending off messengers to warn Ney that he 
must hasten his march, he broke up at 3 a.m. 

Kutuzov on his side had made up his mind to attack. 
Prince Golitzin, with the 3rd Corps and the 2nd Cuirassier 
division, was to attack the Guard in front. Miloradovich, 
strengthened by Korff's cavalry, was to take position 
about Larionovo, a little east of the Lossmina, and let 
Davout go by ; but was then to fall vigorously upon his 
rear, and incline to the left to support Golitzin. Tormazov 
with the 5th, 6th and 8th Corps, and the 1st Cuirassier 
Division, was to move to the left and bar Napoleon's line 
of retreat. Ostermann and Vassilchikov were some 
distance to the rear, but could easily come up during the 
day. Exclusive of Platov, who was north of the Dnieper, 
and the various flying columns, Kutuzov probably dis- 
posed of nearly 70,000 regulars, with about 450 well- 
horsed cannon. 

As regards his plan of action, one does not see why 
Miloradovich should not had attacked Davout directly, 
Golitzin was too weak to hold the Guard in check, while 
Tormazov's column was too strong for its purpose. None 
the less, had the over-elaborate design been vigorously 
executed, Napoleon's small available force of some 
28,000 men might easily have been destroyed. 


Early on the 17th Golitzin moved upon Krasnoi, but 
was checked by Roguet, who momentarily captured the 
village of Uvarova, driving Ozharovski's detachment 
across the Lossmina. Golitzin therefore decided to 
await Miloradovich's co-operation before pressing his 
advance ; while Kutuzov, hearing that the whole Imperial 
Guard, whose strength and fighting power he enormously 
overestimated, was at Krasnoi, kept back Tormazov. 

Davout's leading division (Gerard's) reached the Loss- 
mina between 8 and 9 a.m., and came into line with 
Roguet ; the remaining three followed. The confusion 
in the rear was frightful ; the trains of the 1st Corps 
streamed away to the north of the road with the Russian 
cavalry and Cossacks ranging among them. The panic- 
stricken drivers cut the traces and fled with the horses, 
and much of the remaining baggage of the 1st Corps was 
taken, the spoil including Davout's private carriages, 
containing, amongst other things, his Marshal's baton and 
a valuable collection of maps. Of organised resistance 
there was little except from small bodies of brave men, 
who formed here and there to face the cavalry, and for 
the most part met their death in the performance of their 
duty. The effect of Napoleon's diversion was that the 
1st Corps succeeded in crossing the Lossmina, but its loss 
was very severe, for it had to defile in square or close 
column to withstand the charges of the Russian cavalry, 
exposed all the time to a heavy cannonade. 

As soon as Davout and Mortier had established com- 
munication, Napoleon began to retire upon Liadi with 
the Old Guard and the cavalry, except the Dutch 
Grenadiers and Lancers, whom he left to support Mortier. 
Miloradovich and Golitzin were now in touch, and began 
to press vigorously. A murderous cannonade was 
directed upon the thin French line south of Krasnoi, and 
under cover of it the Russian infantry advanced. The 
Dutch Grenadiers, shattered by artillery fire, fell out of 
the line, and the young " Flanqueurs-Chasseurs," who 


November WIBIZ &&?%l 

Russians qi 
French E3 

Scale ° L_ 


Cuirass tet 

Positions about 10 a.m. on the 17th when Davout effected his 
junction with Napoleon 


were ordered by Roguet to take their place, could not 
bear up against the iron hail. To support them Roguet 
sent the 1st Voltigeurs and the Fusilier-Grenadiers. The 
Flanqueurs were extricated, but the Voltigeurs were 
charged by Duka's Cuirassiers and destroyed, only forty 
wounded men escaping. Nevertheless, it was already 
too late for the Russians to gain any decisive success. 
Tormazov did not receive his orders to advance until 
about midday, and the tracks were so bad and narrow 
that he could not reach the high-road in time to bar 
Napoleon's march. Some light cavalry were easily 
dislodged and the Head-quarters and Old Guard reached 
Liadi in safety. Mortier and Davout followed but, hotly 
pressed by Miloradovich and Golitzin, lost heavily. 
The Dutch Guards were nearly destroyed ; several of the 
regiments of the Young Guard were cut up. Nevertheless, 
Mortier's troops and three of Davout's divisions succeeded 
in getting away to Liadi, but Friederichs' division, 
fiercely pressed in the rear, was assailed on the west of 
the town by Tormazov's vanguard, under General Rosen, 
and nearly destroyed. The 33rd L6ger was all but 
exterminated, only 25 men remaining unwounded. 

Ney had defended Smolensk until the morning of the 
17th. On the 15th the 4th Regiment gallantly repulsed 
an attempt of Choglokov's Division to press the 
evacuation of the northern suburb. Early on the 
17th the force left for Krasnoi". Nothing was known of 
what was occurring ahead, and Davout has been severely 
blamed for neglecting to inform Ney. It is probable 
that his messengers were intercepted. Ney had, includ- 
ing Ricard's division of the 1st Corps, perhaps nearly 
9000 men, but with hardly any cavalry, and only 18 
wretchedly horsed guns. He was also encumbered by a 
horde of 7000 non-combatants. Five thousand sick and 
wounded were left to perish in Smolensk, many being 
killed by the explosion of the mines which, in obedience 
to orders, Ney had laid beneath the ramparts. The first 


day's march was unmolested, but on the 18th Ricard's 
division, which was in advance, blundered in the fog 
against Miloradovich, who was in position behind the 
Lossmina. Surprised and outnumbered by six to 
one the division lost heavily, and was driven back in 
disorder along the road to Smolensk. This, however, 
might have helped Ney, for Miloradovich believed that 
Ricard's force was really the whole 3rd Corps, and was 
therefore taken by surprise when Ney, after rallying the 
remnants of the 2nd Division, came up towards 3.0 p.m. 
The Russians, on the advice of Paskievich, formed line as 
they stood, a battery of 24 guns being placed across the 
road. Ney's force, which looked very formidable through 
the fog, was much overestimated, and the promptitude 
with which the marshal cleared away some cavalry from 
a bivouac on his left impressed the Russians. He, on 
his side, hoped that he had to deal only with a detachment, 
though Miloradovich sent an officer to summon him to 
surrender, and informed him that he had the whole 
Russian army in his front. Ney detained the officer, shots 
having been fired during the parley, and ordered the 
attack. Razout's division went forward with splendid 
heroism, entered the ravine, breasted its further bank 
under a furious fire, and almost reached the Russian front 
when it was crushed by the cannonade and musketry and 
driven back in wild disorder by a counter-attack of 
Paskievich' s division. The Uhlans of the Guard charged 
the relics of the 18th Regiment and captured its eagle. 
General Razout was wounded, General Lanchantin cap- 
tured ; and only a mere remnant of the gallant force 
succeeded in withdrawing under cover of Ledru's division, 
which sacrificed itself nobly to cover the retreat. At 
4.0 p.m. Ney retreated, and so impressed had Miloradovich 
been by the magnificent audacity of the attack that he 
made no effective pursuit. 

Ney retrograded a short distance on the road to 
Smolensk, and then turned to the north. He resolved to 


cross the Dnieper on the ice and make his way to Orsha 
by the right bank. He had the ice on a streamlet broken 
to ascertain its direction, and followed its course until 
the Dnieper was reached. He made a show of bivouack- 
ing at a village, but left his fires burning, and, guided by a 
captured peasant, found a place where the ice on the 
great river would bear. A thaw was, however, setting in, 
and though the fighting men mostly succeeded in crossing, 
the ice broke under the first vehicles. Guns, trains, and 
wounded were left to their fate on the farther bank ; 
there remained with Ney about 3000 exhausted and starv- 
ing foot-soldiers. The only favourable circumstance was 
that the cold had ceased. But on the 19th Platov was 
upon them with his Cossacks, and all the way to Orsha 
they marched in the midst of his squadrons, repeatedly 
cannonaded by his sledge-artillery. The details of the 
daring march are vividly related by De Fezensac, but in a 
work such as this there is little space for them. Ney 
kept the weary handful of troops together by the sheer 
magnetic force of his personality. On nearing Orsha the 
road was found to be barred by fires, but the Marshal 
ordered the charge, and they were found unguarded, 
having been lighted in order to terrorise him into halting. 
At midnight on the 21st the force reached the Vitebsk 
road about 8 miles from Orsha, where a column which 
Eugene had led forth to succour it was encountered. So 
the heroic episode ended. Of the 3rd Corps and Ricard's 
division there survived not 1500 armed men. 

While Ney was making his way to Orsha by the north 
bank of the Dnieper, Napoleon had arrived there on the 
19th. Krasnoi, ill-planned and ill-fought as it was, was 
Kutuzov's last — or only — serious effort. He remained 
in the neighbourhood of the battle-field until the 19th, 
made two marches, halted for a day, and then made two 
easy marches to Kopys on the Dnieper, south of Orsha. 
His army was certainly greatly weakened and fatigued ; 
but he might have achieved much by a persistent and 


resolute advance. The result of his practical inaction 
was that the small remains of Napoleon's fighting force 
were able to make their way to Orsha unmolested by the 

In spite of mismanagement and timidity the fighting 
round Krasnoi was fearfully disastrous. The Napoleonic 
army had lost probably 10,000 men in action. The 
Russians claimed 26,170 prisoners, but at least half of 
these were the disbanded fugitives ; over 100 guns were 
taken on the field, and 112 more had been abandoned. 
Baggage had been taken literally in heaps. As against 
this the Russians only admitted a loss of 2000 men ; and 
it is possible that this is not a gross misstatement. 


NAPOLEON reached Orsha on November 19th, 
and at once set strenuously to work to restore 
order. Stringent orders were given that all 
stragglers were to rejoin their respective corps in specified 
localities. What effect these orders produced cannot 
easily be estimated ; demoralisation was so advanced 
and the mass of disbanded troops so great, that it appears 
that little could be done to reform the skeleton units. 
Something, however, could be done to rally and refresh 
the scanty relics of the fighting force. There were in the 
town stores sufficient to supply the troops with food for 
some days. There were, apparently, fifty guns, some 
hundreds of horses, and Eble's reserve train of sixty 
pontoons with all its equipment. Six batteries were 
organised out of the artillery, each of six guns. Two 
went to Davout, who had saved only eight guns out of 
150 ; two to Eugene, who had not one left ; two were 
assigned to Latour-Maubourg — for what reason is not 
very clear. Mounted cavalry officers were collected into 
what was called the Sacred Squadron, under Grouchy. 
It has been stated that it was destroyed as soon as created; 
but it was certainly in existence a week later. 

Severe orders were issued to destroy superfluous 
vehicles, and to hand over the horses thus freed to the 
artillery. Generals were restricted to a single vehicle, 
and soldiers were forbidden to possess carts or pack- 
horses. These orders were largely non-effective ; there 
were not gendarmes and faithful troops enough to execute 



them, and too many people interested in resisting or 
neglecting them — as the passage of the Berezina was soon 
to show. 

Reasonable and necessary as it undoubtedly was to 
diminish the mass of baggage and assist the artillery, it 
was surely the height of imprudence to destroy the bridge- 
train. Eble, alive to the danger, pressed to be allowed to 
keep fifteen pontoons, but in vain, and he could only save 
2 field forges, 2 waggons of charcoal and 6 of implements. 
At Smolensk he had seen to it that each man carried a 
tool, and a supply of clamps and large nails. To his wise 
precautions the piteous remnants of the Grande Armee 
were to owe their salvation. When Napoleon gave the 
order to burn the pontoons, Chichagov had been four days 
in possession of Minsk, and was already close to Borisov 
with his advance-guard ! Comment is needless. 

Victor remained at Chereia until November 10th. 
Oudinot, who had now recovered from his wound, re- 
sumed the command of the 2nd Corps. The army at 
Chereia was thus commanded by two independent 
generals who would probably disagree. Victor was the 
senior officer, but not definitely the commander-in-chief ; 
and Napoleon in his orders merely bids him to concert 
measures with Oudinot. Probably on the 9th, Victor 
received an urgent order written by Napoleon at Mika- 
levka, to take the offensive and drive back Wittgenstein. 
He was told that the safety of the Grande Armee depended 
upon him. The Emperor admitted that it was much 
fatigued and that the cavalry was dismounted. "March! " 
ordered the falling giant. " It is the order of the Emperor 
and of necessity!" 

On receipt of this pressing order Victor and Oudinot 
got under way. But the army was no longer what it had 
been a fortnight previously. The troops appear still to 
have been well clothed ; they had availed themselves of 
convoys intended for the Poles. Food does not appear 
to have been lacking. But the weather was bitterly 


cold, the ground covered with snow, and the numbers 
were steadily dwindling. It is probable that the two 
corps did not muster over 30,000 men on November 14th. 
Wittgenstein, exclusive of Vlastov, had as many, and 
his position behind the Ula and the Lukomlia was 
strong. His army was now distributed in four small 
corps under Lieutenant-Generals Count Steingell, Prince 
Iachvil, Berg, and Major-General Fock. 

Oudinot is said by De Chambray to have advocated a 
direct attack, but Victor considered it too risky, and it 
was decided to endeavour to turn the Russian left. On 
November nth, therefore, the French army, the 9th 
Corps leading, advanced to Lukoml, about 10 miles south 
of Chasniki, and thence moved eastward across the 
Lukomlia and the Usveia upon Smoliani, a village lying 
beyond Wittgenstein's left flank. On the 13th Partou- 
neaux's division, which formed the advance-guard, found 
that of Wittgenstein in position across the road and drove 
it back upon Smoliani with heavy loss, including several 
hundred prisoners. Wittgenstein, seeing that his left 
was threatened, changed front in that direction and sent 
forward Prince Iachvil to reinforce and rally the advance- 
guard. With the rest of his army he took up a position 
along the Lukomlia. His line extended for about a mile 
and a half, generally in advance of the frozen stream, its 
front being covered by three large ponds, beyond which 
lay Smoliani. Steingell's troops were on the right and 
Berg's on the left. Iachvil's would form the centre. 
Fock's division was stationed in the bend of the Ula 
below Chasniki. 

On the morning of the 14th Partouneaux's division 
moved upon Smoliani, Iachvil retiring steadily before 
him into the Russian main line. Partouneaux developed 
an attack on the village, and easily captured it, but was 
checked by the fire of the Russian artillery. Steingell 
then sent forward some troops and retook Smoliani. 
Round this outpost of the Russian line a brisk conflict 


lasted through the rest of the short winter's day. Its 
possession was, indeed, of slight importance ; and, since 
the Russians declined to be cowed by the threat of a 
turning movement, Victor's bolt was practically shot. 
Except for an attempted demonstration by Victor's 
cavalry on his right, the fighting elsewhere was confined 
to a cannonade. The 2nd Corps and the bulk of the 
Russian army were not engaged at all. On neither side 
were the losses heavy. Victor may have had about 
1400 killed and wounded. The Russians claimed 900 
prisoners — probably a great exaggeration. Their own 
losses during the two days probably totalled 2000. 

Victor could now only retreat. He did not know the 
real state of the central army, but he did know that his 
dwindling force was Napoleon's last reserve. On the 
17th the two corps were once more about Chereia. There 
they might at least hope to hold back Wittgenstein from 
the vitally important high-road. 

Wrede, after Polotsk, had, as has been seen, fallen 
back to cover Vilna. He retired through Glubokoie to 
Danilovichi, and was there reinforced by Coutard's 
brigade, Lithuanian levies, and various drafts, until on 
November 18th he had some 11,000 men. Vlastov, after 
the action of Smoliani, had been drawn in by Wittgen- 
stein, and Wrede reoccupied Glubokoie on the 19th, 
having previously sent Corbineau to rejoin Oudinot. 

At Riga Essen had been succeeded in the command by 
Paulucci. The field force of the garrison was spread out 
on the left bank of the Diina. Its line was very extensive, 
and the troops on the left, under Lewis, were dangerously 
exposed. On November 15th, therefore, Macdonald 
made an attack upon them with Massenbach's Prussian 
cavalry division, a brigade of Prussian infantry and one 
of Poles. Lewis, cut off and hotly pressed, only succeeded 
in escaping by crossing the Diina on the ice. This sharp 
lesson made Paulucci cautious, and some weeks passed 
away in tranquillity, Macdonald growing more and more 


uneasy at the bad news which began to filter through to 
him, and not at all on good terms with Yorck. 

While Schwarzenberg was following Sacken, Admiral 
Chichagov pursued his way to Minsk. The town was 
full of vast magazines of every kind, besides thousands 
of sick and wounded. Yet no attempt had been made 
to fortify it, and the force immediately available for its 
defence consisted only of two small French battalions, 
a weak Wurttemberg regiment, some depots, and 4 
Lithuanian battalions and 4 squadrons newly raised and 
untrustworthy. Instead of keeping his troops united 
near Minsk and Borisov, Bronikowski formed a field force 
under General Kossecki, which he sent forward on the 
road to Slonim. Dombrowski, hearing of Chichagov's 
advance, hastened to collect his division, but it was so 
scattered in his effort to fulfil his multitudinous duties 
that it could not arrive in time. 

Having once made up his mind to ignore Schwarzenberg 
and push on to Minsk, the Admiral wasted no time. He 
sent off Colonel Chernishev with a regiment of Cossacks 
to explain the situation to Wittgenstein, and on November 
9th started Lambert and Sabaniev for Minsk. In defence 
of his slowness hitherto it must be said that, besides the 
menace of Schwarzenberg in his rear, he was much 
pestered by orders from Kutuzov, which were usually 
too old to be applicable to the situation. He was directed 
to entrench himself on the Berezina, and he had only a 
single competent engineer officer. He was ordered to 
reinforce the garrison of Kiev, lest Napoleon should 
follow the example of Charles XII and move southward ! 
To further weaken his army was madness, but Chichagov 
diverted some drafts to Kiev, and held on for Minsk, 
Lambert leading, Sabaniev and Voinov following, and 
Chaplitz bringing up the rear. At Nesvizh, on the 12th, 
General Luders joined. On the 13th Kossecki's column 
was found by Lambert holding the bridge over the 
Niemen at Novi-Svergen . Kossecki had only 4 Lithuanian 


battalions and a solitary gun. He had vainly represented 
to Bronikowski the strength of the advancing enemy, 
and begged permission to retire. Lambert easily carried 
the bridge, capturing the gun and about 1000 prisoners. 
Kossecki fell back towards Minsk, and on the way was 
reinforced by a small battalion of the French 46th, 300 
French cavalry, 150 Wurttembergers and 2 guns. On 
the 15th he was overtaken by Lambert at Koidanow, 18 
miles from Minsk, and, after a running fight of several 
miles, his force was destroyed, only the remnant of the 
French cavalry, which had fought splendidly, reaching 
Minsk. The consequences were fatal. Dombrowski was 
still over 20 miles distant with his advance-guard ; not 
1500 troops remained in Minsk and Borisov ; and 
Lambert was already half-way from Koidanow. Dom- 
browski, who had himself hurried on in advance of his 
troops, saw nothing for it but to abandon Minsk. Next 
day Bronikowski, with about 1000 men, retreated on 
Borisov, while Dombrowski turned his troops back to 
Berezino, hoping thence to reach Borisov before the 
Russians. Minsk was occupied by Lambert in the after- 
noon, and there he found no less than 2,000,000 rations 
of food and 4700 sick and wounded. The hospitals were 
found to be in a shocking condition. 

Chichagov's whole army was in Minsk by the 18th, and 
a halt was made to rough-shoe the horses and rest the men. 
Ertel should have been at hand with his corps ; but on 
pretext of sickness he was still at Mazyr, and only a 
detachment of 6 battalions, 4 squadrons and a Cossack 
regiment had been sent forward to Igumen. Chichagov 
at once despatched Major-General Tuchkov II to super- 
sede him. 

On the 19th the Admiral started Lambert for Borisov 
and Chaplitz for Zembin. Next day Sabaniev marched 
in the track of Lambert, and Voinov after Chaplitz. 
Chichagov accompanied Voinov, while Langeron was 
with Sabaniev. A small garrison was left in Minsk, and 


the Cossack Colonel Lukovkin sent towards Igumen to 
observe Dombrowski. 

Bronikowski had at Borisov and Vseselovo less than 
2000 men. Dombrowski reached Borisov at midnight 
on the 20th, bringing with him 6 battalions and 6 squad- 
rons of his division ; his other infantry regiment and 
2 squadrons were still behind. Arriving in the dark he 
bivouacked on the left bank. A French battalion occu- 
pied the Ute du pont, the 7th Wurttembergers Borisov ; 
the rest of Bronikowski's force was at Veselovo, several 
miles higher up the river opposite Zembin. 

Lambert had with him 5 infantry regiments, 28 
squadrons and some Cossacks — about 8000 men and 
36 guns. Against him Dombrowski could bring less than 
5000 in all, with, apparently, 34 guns. 

Lambert attacked the bridge-head early on the 21st. 
The French battalion was driven out, but the Wurttem- 
bergers hurried up from the rear, repulsed the Russians, 
and gave Dombrowski time to arrive. Again and again 
Lambert assaulted the works in vain ; and the fight 
raged obstinately well into the afternoon, the 1st and 
6th Polish regiments, with their French and German 
comrades, resisting with magnificent courage. Lambert 
himself was dangerously wounded. Towards evening, 
however, the 14th Chasseurs succeeded in turning the 
works on the right by slipping through a gully, while the 
bulk of Lambert's division again assailed them in front. 
They were finally carried, and the adventurous 14th 
pressed on so impetuously that they passed the bridge 
with the flying foe and saved it from destruction. The 
remains of Dombrowski's force were hurled through the 
town in utter confusion, despite their desperate attempts 
to rally, and pursued by the Russian cavalry towards 
Lochnitza, on the road to Orsha. Langeron arrived 
with his leading troops towards the close of the action, 
and in the evening was joined by Chichagovand Voinov. 

On the Russian side more than 1500 men were killed 


and wounded, General Engelhart being among the former 
and Lambert among the latter. Dombrowski's force 
lost over 3000 men killed, wounded, and prisoners. 
Twenty-four guns were taken by the victors. 1 Dom- 
browski's rear-guard regiment was attacked on the 
march by Colonel Lukovkin, and severely mauled before 
it could recover from the surprise and beat off the 

The position of Napoleon now appeared desperate. 
Seventy thousand men, inspirited by success, were 
preparing to bar his retreat to the frontier ; Minsk and 
Vitebsk with their magazines, Borisov with its all- 
important bridge, had passed into the enemy's hands, 
and Schwarzenberg, with the one powerful force that 
remained at Napoleon's disposal, had been drawn far 
away to the south-west. The Emperor had with him 
about Orsha only some 25,000 demoralised men, sur- 
rounded by a helpless mob of 40,000 non-combatants of 
both sexes, the majority in the last stages of misery and 
despair. He had scarcely any effective cavalry, and not 
more than no badly horsed guns, while to his left rear 
was a pursuing army three times his strength. So must 
the position of the defeated conqueror have presented 
itself to his dismayed followers. It now remains to 
review the circumstances which rendered it, terrible as 
it undoubtedly was, somewhat less critical than it might 
have been 1 

After Krasnoi, Kutuzov had practically abandoned the 
pursuit. The condition of his army was very serious ; 
the number of men in the ranks was diminishing daily, 
while the horses were rapidly breaking down under the 
effects of hard marching, little forage, and constantly 
remaining saddled. Buturlin states that the loss by 
fatigue and hardship since October 24th already amounted 
to 30,000 men. 

In direct pursuit of Napoleon, Kutuzov sent forward 

1 Langeron. 


the various flying columns and Cossack detachments, 
and a special force under Yermolov, consisting of the 
Chasseurs of the Guard, six battalions of Dokhturov's 
corps, 2 regiments of Cossacks and 12 guns. The united 
force of these detachments may be estimated at 20,000 
men and 40 guns. The vanguard of Miloradovich, which 
was to follow in support, totalled also about 20,000 men. 
A regiment of Chasseurs had been left to garrison Smo- 
lensk. With the rest of the army Kutuzov marched 
slowly to Kopys, which he reached on the 24th, Milorado- 
vich being about two marches farther on, and Yermolov 
and Platov were in advance of the vanguard. Kutuzov 
left the guns of 12 batteries at Kopys, using their men 
and horses to complete weakened units, and detailed to 
escort them the remains of the light cavalry of the Guard. 
On the 26th he left Kopys with a force reduced now to 
about 40,000 men and 200 guns. Napoleon was already 
at the Berezina, and for all practical purposes the Russian 
Grand Army was off the board at the decisive moment. 
What was worse, though his information was naturally 
out of date, Kutuzov still endeavoured to control the 
operations of Chichagov and Wittgenstein. 

Chichagov on the Berezina was in a state of great 
uncertainty. His army was not now more than 33,000 
strong, and his 10,000 cavalry were almost useless on the 
wooded and marshy banks of the river. He was without 
information of the main armies later than the evacuation 
of Moscow. On the evening of the 21st the Comte 
de Rochechouart, one of the Admiral's French emigre 
staff -officers, found among Bronikowski's half-burnt 
papers a despatch from Victor, stating that Napoleon 
would probably reach Borisov on the 23rd. The news 
must have been something of a shock to Chichagov, since 
he naturally expected to be attacked by greatly superior 
numbers. His conduct at this juncture has been sharply 
criticised, yet one does not well see what else he could 
have done. He moved forward the advance-guard, now 


commanded by Major-General Pahlen II, towards 
Lochnitza, on the Orsha road, to give warning of any 
hostile advance, established his head-quarters in Borisov, 
and kept the bulk of his force on the right bank of the 
river. His errors appear to have been that he allowed 
too much of his baggage trains to cross, and permitted a 
large detachment of his cavalry to disperse to forage ; 
the latter step may, however, have been necessary. The 
point is that Chichagov was ignorant of the deplorable 
condition of the Moscow army, and rather expecting to 
be himself attacked. 

Wittgenstein, on his side, possessed very scanty in- 
formation about the general state of affairs, and his staff 
estimated Napoleon's strength as at least 60,000. The 
result was that his movements were extremely slow and 

In other words, while the destruction of the remnant 
of Napoleon's forces was inevitable if all his adversaries 
showed energy, it was already becoming apparent that 
this would not be the case, and that he would have an 
opportunity of escaping. 

Napoleon learned of the fall of Minsk while on the 
march to Orsha, and despatched orders to Oudinot to 
march to Borisov to secure the passage. On the 20th 
Victor was directed to cover the march on Borisov, which 
he was to reach on the 26th. 

Oudinot was timed to arrive on the 24th, and since he 
had only about 50 miles to march, the Emperor did not 
imagine the position to be desperate. Oudinot, perhaps 
more alive to it, reached Borisov on the 23rd. On the 
22nd he was rejoined by Corbineau, who, after a skirmish 
with Chernishev's Cossacks, found himself cut off from 
Borisov by Chichagov's army, and was guided by a 
peasant to a ford at Studianka, about 8 miles higher up. 

Napoleon, with the Guard and head-quarters, left Orsha 
on the 20th and arrived on the 22nd at Tolochin. There 
were in the place considerable stores, and Napoleon halted 
2 A 


for 24 hours. There he was joined by Ney with the relics 
of his command, Davout now resuming rear-guard duty. 
Platov occupied Orsha on the afternoon of the 21st. 
He captured 21 abandoned guns, some stores, a mass of 
trains, and thousands of sick and wounded, all of whom 
perished. The Russians had not the means of succouring 
them, even had they possessed the will to do so. 

Junot and Zayonczek, with the remains of the 5th and 
8th Corps and the dismounted cavalry, were in advance ; 
then came the Guard and head-quarters, Ney, Eugene 
and Davout. Davout may have had remaining about 
6000 men, Eugene perhaps 3000, Ney 1500, Junot and 
Zayonczek possibly each 1000 ; to the former were 
attached about 1000 dismounted horsemen. The Guard 
may have been 9000 infantry and artillery and 1500 
cavalry strong. A few hundred only of the line cavalry 
still retained horses. It was with the greatest difficulty 
that the fighting troops could force their way through 
the helpless horde of stragglers and disarmed fugitives 
which covered the road. The armed soldiers themselves 
presented a miserable spectacle. A mournful silence 
reigned in the shattered ranks ; the men plodded along 
mechanically, huddling themselves in their rags ; little 
was heard save the shuffling of feet in the snow and slush. 
Vaudoncourt records his feelings of horror when he met 
the advance-guard and saw the dismounted Cuirassiers, 
ragged, bare-footed, emaciated, wretched beyond belief, 
dragging themselves painfully along the roads. 

An incident typical of the absolute callousness to 
which misery had reduced everyone is related by Lejeune, 
who had succeeded Romceuf as Davout's chief -of -staff. 
At Krupki, near Borisov, Davout's staff found two babies 
in the house occupied by them. Lejeune begged the 
Marshal's steward to try and give them a little broth. 
None was forthcoming, and the steward at last, distressed 
by the continued wailing of the little creatures, drowned 
them ! Wilson, too, tells how the Grand Duke Con- 


stantine, out of sheer humanity, as he declared, " put 
out of his misery " a stripped and perishing French 

On the 22nd Napoleon heard from Oudinot that 
Chichagov had captured Borisov and that he himself was 
on the way to retake it. The Emperor replied in a some- 
what incoherent letter, instructing him to seize a point 
of passage, and interspersing orders and intelligence 
with agitated appeals to the Marshal's energy and devo- 
tion. The last were not needed. Oudinot 's intellectual 
capacity was not great, but his devotion was undoubted, 
and he never served Napoleon so well as in the terrible 
days that followed. 

Oudinot on the 23rd picked up Dombrowski and the 
remains of his force. He placed the remains of his 
cavalry at the head of the advance, with Legrand's 
division in support ; and in the afternoon fell upon 
Pahlen near Lochnitza. The Russians were taken 
entirely by surprise, largely apparently because of their 
leader's negligence, and, veterans as they were, broke 
and fled headlong. They poured in mad panic into 
Borisov just as Chichagov and his staff were dining. 
Everybody seems to have lost his head, and the place 
was abandoned in haste and complete disorder. All the 
baggage which had crossed the river was left behind as 
the prey of the 2nd Corps — much to its benefit. Voinov 
hurried up 4 battalions, which occupied the houses near 
the bridge, and enabled the panic-stricken mob to crowd 
across in safety. The bridge was then broken, and despite 
their really brilliant success the passage of the river was 
closed to the French. The Russians had lost in their 
panic flight about 1000 men in all and a quantity of 
baggage, including the Admiral's camp service and 
portfolio ; but no guns were lost — probably rather owing 
to good fortune than good management. Langeron 
sneers bitterly at his chief, but the fault was obviously 
that of Pahlen and his advance-guard, who should not 


have permitted themselves to be surprised by a small 
force of cavalry. 

On November 23rd Napoleon with his leading troops 
reached Bobr, a town of 300 houses, about 35 miles from 
Borisov. Victor was falling back towards the road from 
Chereia, and on this day Billard's brigade of Partou- 
neaux's division had a sharp encounter with Wittgen- 
stein's advance-guard under Vlastov. Billard was 
driven back with considerable loss, which was, however, 
much exaggerated by the Russians, though a battalion 
of the 126th Regiment was completely destroyed. 
Wittgenstein might have done much more, but he was 
very circumspect and timid, and Clausewitz hints that 
he was not greatly disposed to co-operate cordially with 
Chichagov. The latter expected him to unite with his 
own army behind the river, according to the Tzar's 
directions ; and so also did Napoleon, who ordered Victor 
to endeavour to bar his march on Zembin. The Marshal 
could not obey, for he was already too far south, having 
acted upon previous instructions given when Napoleon 
was still uncertain as to the point at which he should 
cross the Berezina. Otherwise Napoleon till the last 
dangerously underestimated Wittgenstein's strength, 
and wrote as if Victor could easily defeat him. 

At Bobr Napoleon received the crushing news of the 
failure to save the bridge of Borisov. All now depended 
upon the bridging of the river. Eble, with his pontonniers 
and his inestimable convoy of implements, was ordered 
forward, while General Chasseloup was directed also to 
the Berezina with all the sappers and artificers who could 
be collected, but they were without forges and almost 
destitute of ordinary hand tools. Stringent orders were 
given to destroy superfluous vehicles and hand over their 
horses to the artillery. Needless to say, they were 
generally evaded. Davout was directed to hold firm as 
long as possible in order to give the miserable mob of non- 
combatants time to escape. It would have been better 


had the humane order never been issued. Most of the 
non-combatants were doomed, and the lives of devoted 
officers and soldiers were wasted in protecting them. At 
Bobr d'Alorna rejoined with the garrison of Mohilev. 
His 1500 men and the remains of the 5th Corps and 
Claparede's division were united to the relics of the 3rd 
Corps, thus giving Ney a force of about 6000 men and 30 

Oudinot also, on the banks of the Berezina, was doing 
his best. He was, as usual with Napoleon's generals, 
timid of responsibility ; but having made up his mind he 
acted with excellent judgment. Having obtained, 
despite all difficulties, information as to the points of 
passage, he, about midday on the 24th, selected Studi- 
anka, and directed thither his small, ill-trained, and 
ill-equipped force of artificers. He informed Napoleon 
frankly of the difficulty of his task ; the enemy were 
keenly watching the course of the river. To distract 
Chichagov he made demonstrations above and below 
Borisov, and noted that the Russians seemed inclined to 
expect the French advance rather below than above. 
Napoleon, after a conference with Generals Dode and 
Jomini, who knew the course of the river, also decided 
to force a passage above Borisov, and indicated the ford 
at Veselovo, 15 miles above that town. When the order 
arrived, however, the Marshal had already selected 

The frost, which had ceased since the 18th, was now 
setting in again. On the one hand, the slightly alleviated 
misery in the army now again began to increase. On the 
other, it hardened the low, marshy banks of the Berezina 
and enabled the French to transport their artillery and 
trains. Opposite to Studianka, about a mile from the 
right bank, ran the Borisov-Zembin road, by which the 
army must defile in order to gain the Minsk- Vilna highway 
at Molodechno. Behind Studianka the ground rose, and 
artillery could be placed in position to command the low 


opposite bank. Studianka itself was a fair-sized village, 
and its houses afforded timber useful for the construction 
of bridges. 

We must now turn to Chichagov, who has been made by 
Russians the scapegoat for the escape of Napoleon. In 
the first place, he believed that Napoleon had 70,000 or 
80,000 men against his 32,000. Next, he had been in- 
formed by Wittgenstein that Napoleon was, in his opinion, 
retreating in the direction of Bobruisk. The Admiral was 
confirmed in this by intelligence that Austrian cavalry 
scouts were on the Minsk-Bobruisk road. Chichagov's 
dispositions in these circumstances were perfectly sound. 
Chaplitz, who had been watching the upper Berezina 
for some time, remained near Brelova, nearly opposite 
Studianka; while Voi'nov and Sabaniev, with Pahlen's 
rallied force, were concentrated round Borisov, ready 
to act in force in any direction. 

On the 25th he received a despatch from Kutuzov. It 
was not a direct order, but, coming from the commander- 
in-chief, it naturally had great weight with the Admiral. 
It suggested that Napoleon would probably move south- 
ward towards Bobruisk to cross the lower Berezina. At 
the same time, Major-General O'Rourke and Colonel 
Lukovkin reported that they had found Polish troops 
lower down (these were Dombrowski's belated detach- 
ments) . 

Chichagov, assuming that Kutuzov had good reason 
for sending his despatch, and considering the intelligence 
sent by his detachment commanders, concluded that 
Napoleon's rumoured southern movement was a reality ; 
and, on the 25th, leaving Pahlen at Borisov, and ordering 
Chaplitz to draw in to him, he marched off with Vo'inov 
and Sabaniev to Chabachevichi, some 15 miles down the 
Berezina. Langeron says that both he and Sabaniev 
endeavoured to dissuade him — Sabaniev apparently 
losing his temper. Chichagov, however, persisted, and 
considering everything it is difficult to see what else he 


could have done, misled as he was by bad information 
from every side. On the 25th Napoleon himself reached 
Borisov, and was seen by Langeron and his staff, much 
to their consternation, as the only force at hand to oppose 
him was Pahlen's weakened advance-guard. The French 
Guards were in Borisov ; the rest of the Moscow remnant 
between Borisov and Krupki, two marches to the rear. 
Oudinot was at Studianka ; Victor rather to the north 
of Davout at Krupki, in order to cover him against Victor. 
Davout since Orsha had been only harassed by Cossacks. 
The bulk of Wittgenstein's slowly advancing force was at 
Kolopenichi, 27 miles north-east of Borisov : Platov was 
east of Krupki, and Yermolov at Maliavka, near Bobr. 

General Aubry, Oudinot's chief of artillery, began to 
fell trees and construct trestles for bridges immediately 
upon arriving at Studiarka, but unfortunately they 
proved too weak. As soon as it was dark Oudinot 
started his artillery for the selected point of passage, and 
as night drew its veil over the dreary banks of the Bere- 
zina, Generals Eble and Chasseloup reached Studianka 
with their men and their slender equipment, and began 
in earnest to construct bridges. All night they laboured 
to prepare the supports, and at 8 a.m. on the 26th the 
first trestle was fixed in position. It had been hoped to 
throw three bridges, but there were scarce enough 
materials for two. Chasseloup soon saw that the hopeless 
deficiency of equipment of his engineers would prevent 
him from doing anything independently ; he therefore 
brought his men to help Eble\ the engineers working at 
the preparation of trestles and floors while the pontonniers 
fixed them. 

The fate of the relics of the Grande Armee now rested, 
humanly speaking, in the hands of a prematurely 
aged and physically broken man of fifty-five years of age, 
who had never, under Napoleon, received employment 
equal to his merits. The name of Jean Baptist e Ebl£ is 
one to be uttered with all honour and reverence as that 


of a man who, besides being a master of his profession, 
was in very truth a hero, upright, modest, self-sacrificing, 
and literally faithful unto death. One seeks not for 
purity or an exalted standard of duty among the rough 
and greedy fighters about Napoleon. Exceptions there 
were, but they were comparatively few ; and so one 
turns with peculiar respect towards the simple, gracious 
figure of Eble. 

Early on the 26th Eble verified the width and depth 
of the river. The latter had increased, owing to a freshet, 
since Corbineau's crossing from 3 J feet to 5. 

Besides pushing on the preparations for the bridges, 
the engineers constructed three small rafts, by which some 
400 infantry were ferried over to guard the bridge-head, 
accompanied by some of Corbineau's troopers, who 
forded the river with foot soldiers behind them. 

The cold was bitter ; the water was already freezing ; 
and the pontcnriers would have to work in it up to their 
shoulders. The ordeal meant certain death to almost all ; 
but the men answered the call of their chief with a 
heroism as high as his own. They were relieved every 
15 minutes and were promised special rewards, but five- 
sixths of them perished. There were 7 companies in all, 
about 400 men, of whom 100 were Dutch. 

The bridges were placed 200 yards apart. Each had 
23 sets of trestles (chevalets). That on the right was 
intended only for troops. It was terribly weak. Suitable 
wood for the roadway was lacking, but the engineers 
patched up one of planks nailed one upon another, and 
laid brushwood and twigs upon it to lessen the strain. 
The roadway was in places nearly level with the water ; 
there were no rails. The left-hand bridge was intended 
for artillery and baggage. It was more solid than the 
other; but still very weak, and as there was no time to 
square them the roadway was constructed of rough logs, 
the passage over which of vehicles occasioned continued 
joltings which impaired the stability of the frail structure. 

Commander of the Bridge Trains of the Grand Army in 1812 


Napoleon himself, with his Head-quarters and Guard, 
reached Studianka early on the 26th. He came to the 
head of the bridges and there remained until they were 
completed, personally supervising the construction. In 
the intervals when he could do nothing he sat on a pile of 
logs on the bank, gloomily gazing upon the slowly pro- 
gressing structures on which his last hopes rested. More 
than once he asked Eble to hurry. The General pointed 
to his devoted pontonniers working themselves to death 
in the icy stream, and the Emperor could say no more. 
What he could do to relieve them he apparently did, 
sometimes helping with his own hands to serve them out 

The artillery of the Guard and of the 2nd Corps was 
massed behind Studianka ready to open fire as soon as the 
Russians should show themselves. But Chaplitz was 
already withdrawing through the woods to Borisov ; 
only a weak rear-guard with 2 light guns remained 
opposite the village. Chaplitz's worst fault was to 
neglect to destroy the long wooden bridges on which the 
Zembin road crossed the marshes. He was a brave and 
a good officer, but on this occasion failed much in the 
performance of his duty. 

At 1 p.m. the right-hand bridge was completed, and 
at once Napoleon gave the order to Oudinot's corps to 
cross. With the addition of Dc mbrowski's Poles it appears 
to have been nearly 11,000 strong. Some of its regiments 
were reduced to mere skeletons ; but others were still 
relatively strong. They were generally well clothed and 
in good order, and their still unbroken spirit appeared 
in the lately unaccustomed cheers with which they hailed 
Napoleon as they defiled past him. The Swiss regiments 
were especially solid and eager. Only 2 guns were taken 
across for fear of injuring the bridge. The advance-guard 
easily cleared away Chaplitz's feeble rear-guard, and 
moved forward on the Borisov road until it found 
Chaplitz, reinforced by Pahlen, in position across its path. 


Reconnaissances despatched to Zembin found the Vilna 
road clear, and the Emperor decided to give up any 
intention of reaching Minsk and to move upon Vilna. 

The heavier bridge was ready at 4 p.m., and the artillery 
of the Guard and Oudinot's corps began to pass. At 8p.m. 
three sets of trestles gave way. Half the pontcnriers 
were called upon and, worn out with desperate toil and 
sunk in sleep as they were, they answered Ebl6's call. 
By n p.m. the breakage was repaired, and the rest of 
the artillery, the remains of the reserve park, and Ney's 
corps began to cross. 

At 2 a.m. on the 27th the bridge broke in the centre ; 
three sets of trestles were destroyed. The second half of 
the pontonniers were called upon. Eble himself chose 
good sound wood and superintended the making of new 
ones, while the heroic pontonniers sacrificed themselves 
as nobly as before. At 6 a.m. the damage was repaired 
and the passage proceeded. The bridge broke again at 
4 p.m., two trestles giving way. It was repaired by 6 p.m. 

The supports of the troop bridge held firm, but the 
weak roadway was continually breaking, and the devoted 
engineers were at work upon it with little intermission. 
It was so frail and swayed so badly that it is remarkable 
that it did not collapse. 

Napoleon, with the Head-quarters and the Guard (less 
Claparede), crossed about 1 p.m. on the 27th. As yet 
no very great number of the non-combatants had arrived, 
and they were mostly employees of the army who crossed 
with their corps. The disbanded mob was flocking into 
Borisov ahead of Eugene and Davout. It was amenable 
to no control, and, as aforesaid, Napoleon's order to the 
rear-guard to hold back was little likely to save it from 

Chichagov, on reaching Chabachevichi, sent patrols 
across the river which failed to locate the enemy, and the 
Admiral became aware that he had been misled. He once 
more turned his troops towards Borisov, which they re- 


entered on the evening of the 26th. He directed Langeron 
to do what he could to reinforce Chaplitz, adding that he 
was coming up with all speed. Everybody, according to 
the bitter Langeron, was cursing " this miserable sailor." 
They, however, did not know the circumstances, and 
might have cursed the high and well-born Prince 
Golenischev-Kutuzov with better reason. Langeron 
took forward Pahlen's infantry to reinforce Chaplitz ; 
he says — certainly with exaggeration — that there were 
only 1200 of them. Vomov's and Sabaniev's troops, 
after a 30 miles march in frost and snow, were in no 
condition for battle, and the Army of the Danube had to 
remain at rest on the 27th. Without wishing entirely 
to absolve Chichagov, it appears to the writer that the 
chief blame must be laid upon Kutuzov, who lagged 
behind and sent misleading intelligence. Blame also 
attaches to Chaplitz for his negligence at Zembin. Yet 
it must be observed that he probably expected, with the 
rest of Chichagov's officers, that Napoleon would retreat 
upon Minsk, and therefore drew in the detachment, which 
might otherwise have been cut off. Chichagov cannot be 
blamed for resting during the 27th. Borisov was full of 
French, who might attempt to force a passage there. 
They were mostly non-combatants, but this could not 
of course be ascertained with certainty. For the rest 
his troops were weary. 

Wittgenstein was probably more blameworthy than 
the much abused Admiral. His pursuit of Victor was un- 
energetic ; despite his double superiority of numbers, he 
made no attempt to press. He was in fear that Napoleon 
would turn his own right flank and retreat by Lepel to 
Vilna ; and this was in fact one of the Emperor's alter- 
native plans. He moved so cautiously that on the 25th 
his advance-guard did not touch the rear-guard of Victor, 
who fell back unmolested towards the high-road at 
Borisov. Reconnaissances made it clear that Napoleon 
was not moving past the Russian right and Wittgenstein 


advanced to Kostritza, only 8 miles from Borisov and 
about 10 east of Studianka. Victor reached Borisov in 
safety ; and Eugene and Davout moved on to Studianka, 
where they arrived at dusk on the 27th. Victor's move, 
however, had evil effects ; his troops came upon the line 
of march of the unhappy fugitives from Moscow, and the 
awful condition of the latter spread demoralisation in 
the ranks of the 9th Corps. The 2nd Corps had already 
come in contact with the woeful relics of the Guard and 
Ney's corps, and their morale was affected. At Kostritza 
Wittgenstein learned that the French were at Studianka, 
but instead of marching thither he directed part of his 
troops on the 27th on Borisov, part on Staroi Borisov, some 
miles above the former place. Platov was in touch with 
Wittgenstein, and Yermolov was on the march to Borisov. 
There were thus, of Russian troops, on the Berezina the 
army of Chichagov, 32,000 strong with 180 guns, that of 
Wittgenstein at least 31,000, and Yermolov's and Platov's 
columns, say 12,000 men and 30 guns, in all 75,000. 

As against this large and eager, if partly irregular, 
force Napoleon is said by De Chambray to have had 
barely 31,000 men. This figure is certainly too low. De 
Fezensac believes that he had 50,000 men ; and on the 
whole it is possible that the total number of combatants 
was about 47,000. It was composed as follows : Guard 
(less Claparede) 8500, Ney about 5000, Davout 3000, 
Eugene 2000, Junot 1500 (including dismounted cavalry), 
Oudinot 11,000 (including Dombrowski), Victor 13,500, 
Head-quarters 2500. The last item is usually ignored by 
historians. There were between 250 and 300 guns, and 
perhaps 5500 effective cavalry, of whom 1500 belonged to 
the Guard and Head-quarters. But of these troops 
nearly a third were so worn down by hardship as to be 
hardly capable of making any great effort. 

Eugene and Davout on reaching Studianka crossed 
in the night, the bitter cold of which went far to achieve 
the destruction of their few remaining troops. Even 


Oudinot's troops, still in comparatively good condition, 
suffered greatly in their wretched bivouacs in the woods 
of Stakhov. Behind the 1st and 4th Corps the horde of 
non-combatants came pouring down to the bridges. The 
road from Borisov to Studianka was choked with their 
throngs. Every age and sex was represented in the 
helpless mass ; and there was to be seen human misery 
in its most hideous aspects. Even more harrowing than 
the misery and hideous aspect of the fugitives was their 
utter apathy and helplessness. The crowd heaved itself 
sluggishly along the tracks in whatever direction it 
chanced to take or was pushed by moving troops. Most 
of the wretches who composed it seem to have lost their 
senses no less than their appearance as more or less 
civilised human beings. The instincts of comradeship 
and humanity were almost extinct, and progress was 
constantly retarded by the brawling and fighting for 
places in the column of the mass of degraded savages 
which once had been Napoleon's Grande Armee. 

Snow fell heavily during the night upon the unfor- 
tunates huddled shelterless among the woods and marshes. 
The non-combatants on reaching Studianka would go 
no further, despite the efforts of Eble and Chasseloup to 
induce some of them to cross. Napoleon had issued 
orders that the passage was to be kept up day and night, 
but they probably could not be, at any rate were not, 
executed. The luckless people continued to stream down 
towards Studianka until the bank for miles was covered 
with them, and apathetically bivouacked as best they 
could among their vehicles. Very few appear to have 
attempted to cross ; those who did probably created 
blockages and disorder, being amenable to no kind of 
control. The pontonnicrs and engineers were too few 
and too weary to enforce order in such a mass. More 
might have been done had Napoleon personally exerted 
himself to supervise the passage ; unfortunately after 
the 27th he did nothing. 


Victor's corps on the 26th became the rear-guard, 
Davout and Eugene passing in advance with the scanty 
relics of their troops. Victor left Borisov for Studianka 
on the 27th. The Baden brigade of Dandel's division 
marched first and crossed the bridges soon after Napoleon. 
Victor himself with the rest of Dandel's troops, Gerard's 
Poles and Saxons, and the artillery made his way out 
of Borisov towards midday, while Partouneaux's division 
with 4 guns and Delaitre's cavalry brigade formed the 
rear-guard. It was to remain at Borisov until dark. 
Platov was marching upon Borisov ; behind him came 
Wittgenstein with Steingell's and Berg's troops. Yer- 
molov was behind. Vlastov's division was marching 
upon Staroi Borisov and Fock's reserve on the way to 
rejoin. 1 

The road from Borisov to Studianka was choked with 
non-combatants, sick and wounded barely capable of 
dragging themselves along, straggling soldiers, disbanded 
skulkers, fugitives from Moscow, camp-followers, men, 
women and children, huddled in a helpless mass, all 
streaming mechanically to Studianka with the last of the 
organised fighting men. Vlastov's division coming into 
the road at Staroi Borisov about 3 a.m., cut the line of 
retreat and the rearward portions of the mob fled back 
towards Borisov, whence Partouneaux moved out to 
fight his way through. His division was now only 4000 
strong. Delaltre had about 500 Saxon and Berg horse- 
men. Two tracks led from Borisov to Studianka, dividing 
a short distance west of the town. That to the left 
skirted the bank, but it was full of stragglers, and Partou- 
neaux, believing that the right-hand one would take him 
directly to Studianka, struck into it. This movement 
brought him right against Vlastov's division. After a 
most gallant attempt to fight their way through the French 
were forced to give way. Partouneaux and Billard were 
taken prisoners with the poor remains of the latter's 

1 Iachvil's advance-guard was apparently distributed. 


brigade, and the remaining three fell back towards 
Borisov, to find it occupied by Wittgenstein. They 
passed a fearful night in the snow, without food, fire, or 
shelter. Next day almost all the wounded and weaker 
men were dead, and the benumbed and starving survivors 
could only surrender. A single battalion, about 160 
strong, which had luckily taken the left-hand track, 
reached Studianka. The French loss was over 4000 men, 
including 500 cavalry and 4 guns. 

In the evening of the 27th Yermolov entered Borisov. 
As soon as the French left the town Chichagov repaired 
the bridge with pontoons, and direct communication 
being thus established, a general attack was concerted 
for next day. Wittgenstein was to complete the destruc- 
tion of Victor's corps, while Chichagov, supported by 
Yermolov and Platov, pressed Ney and Oudinot, and 
endeavoured to throw them back upon Zembin. 

The whole country was partially wooded except on 
the marshy banks of the Berezina, and in places the woods 
became very thick. On the western bank, about 3 miles 
south of Studianka and nearly half-way between the 
villages of Brilova and Bolshoi' Stakhov, stood Ney and 
Oudinot. Their front was about a mile long, Ney's 
force being on the left, resting on the river, Oudinot on 
the right, supported upon a dense wood. Guns could not 
be brought into action on either side except on the road, 
where 8 pieces, equally divided between the two armies 
and continually replaced, fought each other all day. In 
reserve behind Ney and Oudinot stood the Guard. 

At 8 a.m. Chaplitz and Pahlen began an attack on the 
2nd Corps with 7 regiments of Chasseurs, and soon a 
furious conflict raged in the woods. At first the attack 
made headway, and the French and Swiss soldiers, who 
had passed a wretched night, began to give ground. 
When the roar of firing swelled up all the disbanded men 
took to flight, disordering and carrying away the reserves, 
while Oudinot was disabled by a wound. Ney, always 


at the point of danger, rushed to take his place, rallied 
the 2nd Corps and, calling up some of his own troops in 
support, checked Chaplitz's advance and began to drive 
him back upon Stakhov. Some hundreds of prisoners 
were taken. Sabaniev, who was moving up to support 
Chaplitz, stayed Ney's advance, but was suddenly 
charged in the most gallant fashion by Doumerc's 
Cuirassiers. They burst from the woods upon Cherbatov's 
division, broke through its skirmishing line, and charged 
its squares with desperate courage. Some 2000 Russians 
were sabred and captured. The Cuirassiers were of 
course nearly destroyed, but their splendid behaviour 
saved the army for the moment. Chichagov sent forward 
Voiinov to sustain Sabaniev, but though nearly twice as 
numerous the Russians could make no headway. The 
French losses were fearful. General Zayonczek, who had 
defended Praga against Suvorov in 1794, had his leg 
shattered ; Legrand, Rapp, Amey, Dombrowski, and 
Kniaziewicz were also wounded. Half the survivors of 
the 2nd Corps were killed or disabled ; but at night their 
shattered ranks still held their own, and if courage and 
devotion could have saved the Grande Armee, that end 
would have been achieved. 

Meanwhile on the left bank Victor's corps, with equal 
heroism but less success, had been contending with 
Wittgenstein. Most of Victor's artillery and the Baden 
brigade were already across, but Napoleon now sent back 
the latter, adding to them apparently the Baden battalion 
at Head-quarters. The bridges were so blocked that the 
artillery could not return. Victor took up a position 
nearly perpendicular to the river, just south of Studianka, 
on some rising ground partially wooded. On the right, 
close to the river, there was a thick clump of wood. This 
was defended by the Badeners. Next on the left stood 
the Berg brigade when it arrived in line, then Gerard's 
3 Polish regiments, with Low's Saxon brigade beyond 
them. On the extreme left stood General Fournier with 

2 B 


his two remaining cavalry regiments (Baden and Hesse). 
Victor had under his hand only 15 guns, and his entire 
strength was not more than 8000 infantry and 500 
cavalry (according to his own account only 7400). The 
Berg brigade had moved forward to endeavour to rescue 

Wittgenstein left Steingell at Borisov to disarm the 
prisoners ; the rest of his army was directed upon 
Studianka. Vlastov drove back the Berg troops into the 
main line of the 9th Corps ; but was then checked, though 
a battery established by Diebich made terrible havoc 
among the wild crowd which was surging around the 
entrance to the bridges. All the non-combatants, when 
the balls began to fall among them, crowded to the river 
marge in utter confusion and there remained, huddled 
in a mass more than 200 yards deep and extending 
for three-quarters of a mile. The panic was fearful, and 
the horrors that took place in the crowd will never be 
known. Men fought their way ahead by any and every 
means, and drove their vehicles remorselessly through 
the press. Men, women, and children were murdered, 
trodden down, and forced helplessly into the river, while 
all the while the Russian cannon-balls were falling with 
the snow. Many of those who reached the bridges were 
thrust off them and drowned or crushed beneath the 
wheels of vehicles. Many comitted suicide to avoid a 
worse fate : there is at least one well-authenticated case 
of a mother who, herself mortally wounded, killed her 
child before she died. Yet carriages of Napoleon's staff 
and of the Generals of the Guard were laden with help- 
less women and children whom their protectors made 
every effort to save. Marshal Bessieres and General 
Laborde in particular earned by their humanity laurels 
fairer than any which they had gained upon the field of 

General Berg's first division quickly supported Vlastov. 
The Badeners on the right were driven back ; but 


Napoleon at once took the Russians in flank by estab- 
lishing a battery on the other side of the river. The 
Badeners reoccupied their position and held it all day 
against incessant assaults — at grievous cost to them- 
selves. Further to the left Victor's Polish troops executed 
a fierce counter-attack, and were on the point of piercing 
the Russian centre when Fock arrived with his division 
and restored the conflict. Victor's men were now hope- 
lessly outnumbered, but they fought on with magnificent 
tenacity until nightfall. An attempt to turn the left was 
checked by a gallant charge of Fournier's troopers and 
repulsed by the Saxons and a Polish regiment. Berg's 
second division, owing to some misunderstanding, did 
not arrive until the action was over. Victor's left was 
thrown back, but he still covered the bridges. 

At 9 p.m. Victor received orders to cross, and began to 
withdraw. All round the bridges huddled the living mass 
of human beings and animals, heaving sluggishly with 
convulsive movements to escape, but practically inert. 
The eastern outlets were blocked by a hideous heap 
of broken vehicles and dead or dying human beings and 
horses piled one upon another in the trampled and blood- 
stained snow, through which it was impossible to make 
way. Eble* and his engineers literally had to make a 
cutting through the horrible heap and pile up the corpses 
on each side to keep back the unhappy mob. Through this 
ghastly passage, and along others like it made for them 
by the pioneers, the weary remains of the German and 
Polish regiments defiled, but even so they often had to 
fight their way. It was not until 1 a.m. on the 29th that 
they were at last across. Victor and Eble vainly en- 
deavoured to persuade some of the mob to follow, but 
most of them were torpid with misery and hopelessness 
and would not move. At dawn on the 29th a small 
detachment of the 9th Corps which had remained to the 
last was withdrawn. Ebl£'s orders were to fire the bridges 
at 8 a.m., but he waited until 8.30, hoping to save some 


more lives. A few of the non-combatants followed 
Victor's rear-guard, but the passages were soon blocked. 
At 8.30 Eble fired the bridges, and there was a last scene 
of horror. Many of the unhappy wretches, at last alive 
to the situation, strove to dash through the flames, others 
endeavoured to cross on the thin ice between the bridges, 
many threw themselves into the icy stream to wade or 
swim. It is useless as well as painful to dwell longer 
upon the tragedy, the details of which may be gathered 
from countless works. Perhaps no event in history has 
ever so completely united in itself every element of misery. 

The loss of life at the passage of the Berezina will never 
be exactly known. The Grand Armee lost 1200 officers 
killed and wounded, which may perhaps indicate a total 
of all ranks of 12,000 to 15,000. The 2nd and 9th Corps 
lost half their effective strength. Including prisoners 
and deaths from cold and misery during the three days 
the army was probably diminished by from 20,000 to 
25,000 men. Enormous quantities of baggage were lost, 
but few guns — the Russians claimed 23. The loss of life 
among the non-combatants must have been enormous ; 
almost all who were captured died of hunger or cold ; 
their captors had little to spare them, and if the Russian 
regular soldiers often behaved with kindliness, the wilder 
Cossacks stripped their captives of everything. Perhaps 
the most awful incident was the fate of 500 women who 
were huddled in a barn at Borisov, without food for several 
days, and almost without fires. Only some 20 survived. 

There is reason to believe that the Russian armies lost 
at the Berezina not less than 10,000 killed, wounded, and 
prisoners. Langeron says that Chichagov alone lost 
7000. Of the 1500 prisoners many died of want before 
the survivors were retaken by the Russians. 

It cannot be said that Napoleon showed to any advan- 
tage at the Berezina. The selection of the point of passage 
was due to the skill and energy of Oudinot ; the credit 
for the splendid resistance on the 28th is to be attributed 


to Ney and Victor ; while the true heroes of the episode 
were General Eble and his pontonriers. Eble died of 
his hardships a month later, and of his devoted 400 not 
40 ever saw their homes again. 



THE passage of the Berezina practically put an 
end to the existence as an organised body of 
the remains of the Grande Armee. Of the 45,000 
or 47,000 combatants whom Napoleon had near Studi- 
anka on the 26th, there probably remained on the 29th 
little more than 25,000, a total which rapidly diminished 
through slaughter, fatigue, famine, despair and, above 
all, the steadily increasing cold. The 2nd and 9th Corps 
had sacrificed themselves heroically to cover the passage, 
but the double ordeal of battle and hasty retreat was too 
heavy for them to bear, and they began to disband like 
the rest of the army. They had already been reduced to 
a mere handful. In a report on the evening of the 30th 
Victor stated that he had only 60 mounted horsemen left. 
He believed that he still had 4000 infantry — the sur- 
viving half, as he explained, of the 2 divisions which had 
fought so gallantly on the 28th — but on calling the roll 
he found that they had already dwindled to 3300. 

While the battles of the 28th were raging the corps of 
Davout and Eugene had defiled on Zembin. The effects 
of the neglect of Chaplitz to break down the long wooden 
bridges over the marshes were now apparent ; the 
marshes were hardly as yet solid enough to bear vehicles, 
and had the bridges been destroyed nothing could have 
passed. Before daylight on the 29th Napoleon started 
with the Guard, followed by Victor and Ney, but the 
passage over the long narrow bridges was so slow that at 



10 p.m. Ney was only at Zembin, 7 or 8 miles from Studi- 
anka. With him were Eble and the remnant of his pon- 
tonniers, and when the last troops had passed they fired 
and blew up sections of the bridges to check the pursuit 
of the Russians. 

On November 26th Kutuzov, who was then at Staro- 
selie, 12 miles west of Kopis, seems to have awakened to 
the probability that Napoleon would escape. At any rate, 
he suddenly acted with convulsive energy, and during the 
next 2 days the Corps de Bataille marched 42 miles. 
The effort, of course, exhausted it, and on the 29th it could 
only cover 11. In any case it was too late. Napoleon 
himself was already safe, and, though only followed by a 
remnant of his once mighty host, was able and willing to 
give endless trouble to Europe. 

Miloradovich reached Borisov on the 28th, too late to 
take part in the battles. Wittgenstein was retarded by 
the necessity of bridging the Berezina at Studianka, for 
which purpose he had to avail himself of Chichagov's 
pontoons from Borisov. He directed Kutuzov II, who 
had just joined him, to pursue Wrede towards Vilna, 
and Orlov-Denisov, reinforced by some cavalry and 
mounted infantry, to follow Napoleon. Chichagov 
pushed forward Chaplitz, and prepared himself to follow 
with the bulk of his army. 

For the relics of the Grande Armee there was now, as 
De Chambray says, no resource but in hasty flight. Wrede, 
after reoccupying Glubokoie, had moved southward to 
Dokchitsi, and was directed to cover the right flank of the 
retreating army ; but his force, at first about 10,000 
strong, rapidly dwindled from the ravages of cold and 
hardships, and the steady harassing of Kutuzov II. To 
expect that he could check Wittgenstein, who crossed 
the Berezina on the 31st, and began to pursue by roads 
roughly parallel to the main highway, was hopeless. 

The country between the Berezina and Vilna had not 
been completely wasted ; the towns still existed ; there 


were small garrisons and magazines in some of them. 
But the increasing cold rapidly shattered every sem- 
blance of organisation. It rapidly became so fearful that 
all energy was absorbed in fighting it and endeavouring 
to preserve existence. The number of men actually 
with the colours dwindled fast. On December 1st Ney 
sent the eagles of the 3rd Corps with their guards and the 
regimental officers to take refuge with the head-quarters 
and the few thousand troops who still marched with it. 
When he had sent them off there remained to escort him 
only a company of 100 fighting men ! The others, under 
General Ledru, tramped doggedly on for two days and 
three nights, only halting for necessary rest, and joined 
the head-quarters at Molodechno. 

The flight to Vilna contains little of military interest. 
It was a mere rout of the most pitifully helpless condi- 
tion, the mass of fugitives trailing mechanically along the 
road, followed, surrounded, and massacred by the Cos- 
sacks, while Chichagov's army and Yerm61ov's division 
marched steadily in the rear, ready to overwhelm any 
solid resistance that might be made. But, in truth, little 
could be offered. On November 29th Lanskoi's cavalry 
detachment seized Plechenitzi on the French line of re- 
treat, nearly capturing the wounded Marshal Oudinot, 
whose staff heroically defended the house in which he lay. 
Chaplitz crossed the Zembin marshes by strengthening 
the ice with planks and brushwood, followed up the 
French rear-guard, and captured 7 guns and hundreds of 
stragglers. On the next four days there were further rear- 
guard actions, all much alike and all resulting in loss of 
guns and prisoners to the unhappy French, whose misery 
and demoralisation prevented them from responding to 
the splendid example still set them by their heroic leader. 
The hopeless condition of affairs may be gauged by the 
fact that on December 2nd there remained hardly 
13,000 men with the colours (De Chambray says only 
8800). With the head-quarters there were still perhaps 

2 g 

9 i 

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6000 or 7000 ; Ney had about 2500 1 ; Victor perhaps as 
many ; while the 1st, 4th, and 8th Army Corps and the 
cavalry could not muster 1000 armed men between them. 
There was still a considerable number of armed officers, 
but they fell sick or broke down daily. Disorganisation 
was complete. Disbanded men who had hitherto kept 
their weapons now threw them away. Forage could be 
procured ; and food in quantity sufficient to support 
life was not lacking. But rest was now more necessary 
even than food, and it was impossible to obtain it. The 
bulk of the men were already broken by misery and 
fatigue, and were forced to continue their weary march 
amid a cold which grew ever more severe. On December 
3rd it became intense ; on the 5th the thermometer fell 
to 20 below zero (Reaumur) ; on the 6th to 24 ; on 
the 7th to 26 ; and it is said to have fallen still lower 
later on. Its severity struck even men like Lowenstern, 
accustomed to the winters of the Baltic provinces. 

At Vilna Napoleon might expect his last powerful 
reinforcement — Loison's division of the nth Corps, which 
reached the Lithuanian capital in the last week of 
November with two cavalry regiments of D'Estree's 
Neapolitan division in Danzig. There were besides in 
Vilna 6000 or 7000 troops of all kinds — regiments de 
marche and Polish and Lithuanian levies. Maret, with 
the best intentions but disastrous results, ordered 
Loison's division forward to Ochmiana to take position 
and cover the retreat of the relics of the army into Vilna. 
It was composed of young French and German recruits, 
and three or four days of the cruel weather nearly 
destroyed it. How many men actually died and how many 
disbanded cannot be ascertained ; it is only certain that 
on December 7th there remained in the ranks less than 
3000 men 1 

At Molodechno on the 3rd, just as the cold was becoming 

1 2nd Corps 500 infantry ; Claparede 200 ; Dombrowski 800 ; 5th Corps 
323. Cavalry about 500. Artillery perhaps 200. 


deadly, Napoleon, who already contem plated lea ving 
the arrny^ issued practically his last d irect orde rs. ^The 
remains of the Polish divisions were sent off south-west 
towards Warsaw, which they eventually reached in 
safety with such guns as they had preserved. Here 
Napoleon received the first posts which had reached him 
for several days, the others having presumably been 
intercepted by the Cossacks. Here also he composed 
and sent off the 29th Bulletin. It is so well known that 
little reference to it is necessary. It is, however, to be 
observed that it is as grossly mendacious as any of the 
Napoleonic series ; and the Emperor's total lack of 
appreciation of the often heroic conduct of his troops 
throws a very disagreeable light upon his character. 
Certainly no one, reading its paragraphs, would conclude 
that the campaign had been an annihilating catastrophe. 
Every post brought shoals of letters to Maret, enquiring 
about the food supplies at Vilna, furiously attacking 
the Poles for not supporting him, and his own agents for 
not having urged them to do so ! One most remarkable 
question is as to whether Vilna and Kovno are fortified. 
Surely Napoleon should have given orders on this point. 
The fact seems to be that at first he had been over- 
confident of success, and later had overlooked the 
necessity of protecting his bases — witness the case of 
Minsk. On the 29th of November he had ordered the 
minister to clear all the diplomatic body away from 
Vilna, lest they should be witnesses of the awful state 
of the army. 

On December 3rd, Victor — much against his will — 
relieved Ney of rear-guard duty. He was weary of the 
war, and desired chiefly to save the relics of his corps. 
The result was a quarrel between the two marshals. The 
survivors of the 9th Corps succeeded in holding off 
Chaplitz in an engagement on the 4th, but next day 
Victor reported that it was completely used up, and could 
not receive the lightest attack. He hurried on to Smor- 


goni with the few hundred frost-bitten men who remained 
to him. 

Napoleon himself reached Smorgoni at 8 a.m. on the 
5th. There he called to his presence Murat, Eugene, 
Berthier, Davout, Ney/Lefebvre, Mortier and Bessieres, 
and announced to them his intention of proceeding forth- 
with to Paris. There can be no doubt that this was his 
wisest course of action. His presence at the capital was 
imperatively necessary to direct new levies, and to 
sustain public spirit. The army practically existed no 
longer, and could gain nothing by his remaining with it ; 
finally, any longer delay might render it impossible for 
him to reach his own frontier across Germany. 

Murat, by virtue of his rank, succeeded to a command 
which was merely nominal. It was no doubt wise to 
leave all the corps commanders with the army, since the 
circumstance might impose upon the Russians ; but 
otherwise it was a measure of doubtful utility. Ney, 
the hardest fighter of them all, and apparently the only 
one who persistently held firm to his duty, was on bad 
terms with Davout and Victor, and Davout and Murat 
quarrelled whenever they met. As it was, there being 
hardly anything to command, their squabbles counted for 
less than they might otherwise have done. 

Napoleon left in his carriage at 7 p.m., accompanied 
by Caulaincourt. Duroc and Lobau followed in a sledge ; 
and on the box of the carriage were the Mameluke 
Rustan and Captain Wasowicz of the Polish Lancers of 
the Guard, who acted as interpreter. Believing the road 
to be clear, he was escorted only by a small detachment 
of Neapolitan cavalry — and thus the mighty conqueror 
stole away from the scene of his ruin, leaving the survivors 
of his gigantic host to the climate and the arms of Russia. 

As a fact, he had a very narrow escape from capture, 
since Seslavin that day made a dash at Ochmiana. 
Loison's division, however, or what remained of it, had 
reached the town just before ; Seslavin was driven out, 


and bivouacked for the night a little way to the south, 
so that the Emperor arrived in safety. At Medniki, the next 
stage, he met Maret, who had come out to meet him. The 
minister informed him of the enormous magazines which 
had gradually collected in Vilna. Presumably, as De 
Chambray suggests, Maret's returns under this heading 
had failed to reach the Emperor, for he expressed his 
great relief, and directed Maret to tell Murat to halt for 
eight days in -the city, in order to restore the physique 
and morale of the army. He arrived at Vilna on the 6th, 
leaving again, after a brief halt, for Warsaw. There, on 
the 10th he had the interview with De Pradt which the 
latter has so graphically described. He started again in 
a few hours via Dresden for Paris, which he reached on 
the 18th. 

At Vilna, indeed, there were 4,000,000 rations of biscuit 
and flour and 3,600,000 of meat, besides an immense 
quantity of grain ; 27,000 spare muskets, 30,000 pairs 
of boots, and great stores of clothing and equipment. But 
little of this was destined to be of use to the unhappy 
victims of Napoleon's overweening ambition. The 
scenes on the road between Vilna and the Berezina would 
pass all belief were there not trustworthy witnesses, both 
French and Russian, to bear testimony to them. The 
road and its borders were strewn with dead men and horses 
and abandoned guns and vehicles, often broken and half- 
burned, the fugitives having endeavoured to utilise 
them as fuel. Along this way of sorrow trailed an endless 
stream of human beings of both sexes, falling at every 
step to mingle with the corpses upon which they trampled. 
Those who fell were quickly stripped of their wretched 
rags by the passers-by — themselves doomed to the same 
fate before long. To dwell upon the horrors which 
marked every mile of the flight is useless. They may be 
gathered from countless works composed by eyewitnesses. 
The sense of humanity had been in many cases extin- 
guished, and there are well-attested incidents of canni- 


balism. Langeron vouches for having seen bodies from 
which the flesh had been hacked. The intense cold 
produced insanity ; men took refuge in heated ovens 
and were roasted to death, or sprang into the fires. To 
be taken prisoner brought no alleviation of the lot of the 
hapless fugitives. The Cossacks usually stripped them; 
often, too, the Russians, exasperated at the destruction 
of Moscow and the ravages of the invaders, gave no 
quarter even to those who surrendered. Besides, they 
could do nothing to provide for them even had they the 
will. Prisoners died, as before, by the roadside, stripped, 
famished, frozen ; at Vilna they were packed into 
buildings where pestilence raged amid cold, filth, and lack 
of proper food. 

On towards Vilna, to which they looked forward as 
a haven of rest, the wretched horde streamed. The 
Cossacks hung about the route, dashed at will into the 
huddled mass, mixed with the crowd, and killed and 
plundered with deadly dexterity. Around the head- 
quarters still moved a considerable but steadily diminish- 
ing body of fighting men, but discipline had vanished, 
and even the Guard marched in confusion, and paid little 
heed to orders. Here and there among the piteous 
crowd that followed were to be found groups of armed 
officers and men, often sick and worn out, but retaining 
spirit to sell their lives dearly when attacked, but these 
were few. Even the rear-guard was not an organised 
body — merely a band of desperate warriors held together, 
usually, by the personal influence of the one Marshal of 
France who returned from Russia with added renown. 

On the heels of the French rear-guard marched Chap- 
litz's division, attacking at every opportunity, picking 
up abandoned guns and vehicles mile by mile and 
disarming prisoners, who were then left to live or die as 
they might. After Chaplitz, always between a piteous 
double stream of " prisoners " whom it could neither 
care for nor guard, tramped the Army of the Danube, 


everyone from the Admiral downwards marching on 
foot to escape frostbite, and carefully taking every pre- 
caution against it. Sometimes the road was so choked 
with dead that the dismounted cavalry in the advance 
had to clear it before the guns and trains could be got 
forward. Langeron says that, despite the weather, fatal 
cases of frostbite were almost unknown among these 
veterans of the Turkish War. 

It is distressing, amid the stories of the universal misery 
and destitution, to read of the waggon-loads of luxuries 
belonging to Napoleon, Murat and other generals which 
were taken by the Russians. There is a grim humour in 
learning that the uncouth captors often took perfumes 
for spirits and liqueurs, and ate pomade in mistake for 
butter ! 

Victor on reaching Ochmiana found, instead of Loison's 
strong division, 3000 or 4000 half -frozen recruits who would 
waste away entirely in a couple of days. He continued his 
retreat in all haste, followed and harassed by Chaplitz 
and Platov, who picked up prisoners by thousands and 
cannon by scores. On the 9th, a little way short of Vilna, 
Wrede arrived. His force had dwindled from cold, 
dispersion, and losses in skirmishing to a remnant of less 
than 3000 men, but he still possessed several guns. 
Murat and the head-quarters had reached Vilna on the 
8th ; but as early as the 6th bands of ragged and destitute 
fugitives had begun to enter the city to the consternation 
of the inhabitants. Even in Murat's column there was 
panic and disorder, which was only checked for a while 
by the Chasseurs of the Old Guard, who held together in 
the mob and prevented a mad rush. But when they had 
entered the crush became terrible, and order impossible. 
The gates were choked and, amongst others, Davout and 
his staff could only enter by a gap in a wall. The fugitives 
poured through the streets seeking for food and shelter — 
often vainly, for the horrified inhabitants barricaded 
themselves in their houses — and when they could not 


obtain it, dropped down to die. The Jewish tradesmen 
sold food to the helpless wretches literally for its weight 
in gold ; but when the city was evacuated, unless all 
accounts lie, they murdered and robbed them whole- 

To stay in Vilna, even for a few days, was impossible. 
Seslavin and his Cossacks actually entered the city on 
the 9th, but were, of course, obliged to retreat almost 
immediately. But the action showed the absolute reck- 
lessness of the Russians, and the French army was 
destitute of power to resist. So many of the men dis- 
persed in the city that on the 10th only 6000 or 7000 at 
most were under arms. A large part of the fugitives 
never left Vilna again. Many were worn out by sickness 
and fatigue, and having once lain down to rest had not 
power to rise. Many died through drinking spirits, in 
the hope of resisting the cold. Many more were frost- 
bitten, and sudden warmth added to neglect produced 
gangrene. Nearly 20,000 helpless creatures were left, 
mostly to perish, in the city when the remainder pursued 
their way to the Niemen. No news as to the actual 
state of affairs had been allowed to reach Vilna, and the 
consequence was that no preparations had been made 
for the reception of the army. Murat simply lost his 
head ; at the first sound of the cannon at the advance 
posts he left the palace in which he had established him- 
self and hurried to the Kovno gate to be ready to escape. 
Berthier issued hasty orders to destroy the arms and 
ammunition in the arsenal. Eble\ whose noble life was 
almost spent, and who had set the crown upon his reputa- 
tion by his unfailing heroism and self-sacrifice during the 
last stages of the retreat, was charged with this melancholy 
duty, Lariboissiere being even nearer his end. Direc- 
tions were given to issue food and clothes to everybody 
abundantly and without attention to forms. Orders were 
sent to Schwarzenberg to withdraw to Bielostok, while 
Macdonald was instructed to retreat to Tilsit. The 


hopeless task of holding back the Russians was thrown 
upon the shoulders of Ney. 

Wrede with his frozen and disorganised remnant was 
driven in upon Vilna by Platov on the gth. The Cossacks 
were already all round the town skirmishing with the 
defenders. Apart from the destruction wrought by the 
cold the latter suffered considerable loss. The Lithuanian 
Tartar Squadrons, destined to form part of the Guard, 
were completely annihilated. In the night Murat 
evacuated Vilna, and next day Ney abandoned it, the 
Cossacks following him through the streets. 

A few miles from Vilna the road to Kovno leads over a 
steep hill. The remains of the army trains and those 
from Vilna, which were following the army, found them- 
selves blocked at the foot of the icebound slope, up 
which the horses were utterly unable to drag them. 
The last remaining guns and most of the waggons had 
to be abandoned. The army pay-chests, containing 
10,000,000 francs, were abandoned and partly pillaged by 
the soldiers. Only Napoleon's private treasure and 
carriages, and a very small proportion of the trains, were 
by desperate exertions preserved, 20 horses being neces- 
sary to drag a single vehicle up the hill. In the midst of 
the disorder and pillage the Cossacks arrived. Platov 
opened on the crowd with his light guns, but his wild 
horsemen for the most part fell upon the spoil and 
apparently disdained to take prisoners. The disaster was 
due to sheer lack of management, since the Novi Troki 
road, which was level and little longer, turned the hill to 
the south, and might easily have been used for the retreat. 

It was as hopeless to attempt to hold firm at Kovno 
as at Vilna. There were 42 guns in the town, partly those 
of Loison's division, which had been left there, great 
magazines of food and clothing, and about 2,500,000 
francs in cash. There was a feeble Ute du pont, but the 
Niemen was frozen and could be crossed anywhere on the 
ice. On the 12th the main body poured into the town — 



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about 20,000 men, mostly in the last stage of misery 
and despair and nearly all disarmed. The Guard mus- 
tered 1600 bayonets and sabres. Ney, who had been 
righting with Platov all the way from Vilna, reached the 
town in the evening ; with the garrison troops added to 
the relics of the rear-guard he had not 2000 men. Efforts 
were made to distribute the stores and re-arm the dis- 
banded troops, but the men threw away the muskets. 
The magazines were pillaged, the miserable wretches 
naturally fastening upon the spirit stores. Men drunken 
and dying lay in heaps in the snow-covered streets. 
Most of the benumbed fugitives lacked even the sense 
to avail themselves of the ice on the river ; they crowded 
mechanically over the bridge, fighting for precedence, 
stifling and trampling each other down, as at the Berezina 
and Vilna. Murat placed some guns in battery on the 
left bank of the Niemen, and left for Konigsberg on the 
13th, while Ney and the rear-guard occupied the town, 
which they held until dark. Platov sent across a detach- 
ment on the ice, which captured the guns on the left bank 
and barred Ney's retreat. His men were largely huddling 
in the houses ; he had only a few hundred armed soldiers. 
He turned down the left bank of the river and then 
diverged to the left across the Pelwiski forest, eventually 
making his way by Gumbinnen to Konigsberg. He 
abandoned in the forest Loison's 16 guns, almost the last 
artillery that the army retained. 

The Russians did not immediately cross the political 
frontier, and bitterly as the Prussian peasantry hated 
the French they did not actively ill-treat them. Many 
isolated fugitives were disarmed, but their misery was 
such as to melt even hearts steeled by hatred and the 
memory of recent oppression. De Fezensac says that the 
happiness of being fed and lodged prevented them from 
noticing the hostility of the people. The bulk of the mob 
of fugitives reached Konigsberg by the 20th, and thence 
cantonments were spread along the Vistula. On that day 
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the infantry of the Guard counted about 2500 officers 
and men, of whom 1000 were sick. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 
4th Corps mustered between them on January 10th, 1813, 
some 13,000 men sound and sick, of whom 2500 were 
officers. As to the condition of the army, nearly all the 
troops were disarmed and had to be furnished with new 
muskets from the vast magazines at Danzig. On 
December 23rd Eble, now in chief command of the artil- 
lery, reported that of all the vast train which had entered 
Russia with the Central Army there remained but 9 guns 
and howitzers, and 5 caissons ! 

Two days before Lariboissiere had died, and on Decem- 
ber 30th Eble also passed away. Colonel Pion des 
Loches, a man who rarely has a good word to say for his 
superiors, expresses himself thus concerning them : 
" Both were victims of their zeal and devotion. Our 
army lost in them its pillars and supports . . . and what 
are all our other generals worth beside them ?'*' As his 
comrades in arms laid Eble to rest in the Roman Catholic 
cemetery at Konigsberg, Napoleon was signing the decree 
which created him First Inspector-General of Artillery. 
Eble's grave has vanished, for the cemetery has been 
destroyed, but his glory far outshines that of thousands 
of better known men. 

Marshal Kutuzov reached Vilna on December 12th to 
control the hitherto independent movements of Chichagov 
and Wittgenstein. His own troops were following under 
Tormazov, but they were so shattered by the long march 
from Moscow that their offensive power was for the time 
at an end, and they were cantoned about Vilna. Chicha- 
gov was to follow to the Niemen to support Platov and 
the advance-guards which hung on the heels of the 
retreating French. Wittgenstein was ordered to inter- 
cept Macdonald on his expected retreat to the Niemen, 
while Paulucci was to press him in rear. Sacken's army, 
supported by the Mozyr force, now under Tuchkov II, 
and a detachment from Bobruisk, was to deal with 


Schwarzenberg. The Emperor Alexander reached Vilna 
on December 22nd, and at once devoted himself to the 
task of endeavouring to save the lives of his captured 
enemies. The hospitals were choked with the Russian 
sick, and the French prisoners, almost all ill and helpless, 
were perishing wholesale. Biscuit and bread they re- 
ceived, but there was no other help for them. Gangrened 
wounds, frostbite, and typhus produced by filth, 
hunger, and putrefaction, swept them away. In three 
weeks 15,000 are said to have died. Alexander and 
Constantine made magnificent efforts to cope with the 
awful mass of human misery. Reckless of personal 
danger, they personally superintended the relief opera- 
tions; the Grand Duke nearly died of the fever which 
he caught in the midst of his labour of humanity. St. 
Priest was transferred from the work of collecting the 
Russian stragglers to that of superintending the hospitals 
of the prisoners, for which his French origin especially 
fitted him. 

Macdonald, before Riga, received his orders to retreat 
on December 18th, and started next day in two main 
columns, he himself leading the way with Grandjean's 
division, a Prussian infantry brigade, and Massenbach's 
cavalry ; while Yorck followed a day's march behind the 
rest of the Prussians. Wittgenstein himself could hardly 
intercept him ; but the flying detachments of Kutuzov II 
and Diebich, thrown far forward, might hope to impede 
Macdonald's march. The Marshal on reaching Kolti- 
niani divided his own column, taking advantage of two 
roads thence to Tilsit, and intending to reunite his whole 
corps at Tauroggen. Kutuzov II was too weak to inter- 
cept him ; but Diebich, with his 1500 cavalry and a few 
sledge-guns, got between Macdonald and Yorck on the 
25th, and boldly proposed to the latter a conference in 
order to prevent useless bloodshed. After some hesita- 
tion Yorck at last made up his mind, and on the 30th 
concluded the famous convention of Tauroggen, by which 


the Prussians were declared neutral. The results were 
incalculably important, but belong rather to the history 
of the German War of Liberation. The immediate conse- 
quence was that the wreck of the Grande Armee was 
weakened by 16,000 or 17,000 excellent soldiers and 
60 guns. 

Macdonald, meanwhile, was pursuing his retreat, and 
on the 27th repulsed Vlastov's divisions, which had 
come up to support Kutuzov II, capturing some prisoners 
and a gun. But at Tilsit, on the 31st, he was deserted by 
Massenbach and was forced to fall back on Konigsberg. 
He marched rapidly and steadily, and reached the 
Prussian capital in safety. On January 3rd, 1813, his 
rear-guard, under Bachelu, was driven through Labiau, 
after a hard fight, by Wittgenstein's advance-guard 
under Chepelev. At Konigsberg Macdonald was joined 
by Heudelet's division, but Yorck's defection ended all 
hope of being able to make a stand on the Pregel, and 
the retreat was continued to Danzig. When the blockade 
of Riga was raised, Paulucci sent Lewis with 8000 men 
to pursue Macdonald, and himself with 3000 made a dash 
for Memel, which he reached on December 15th, after an 
amazing march of 200 miles in 8 days. The place im- 
mediately surrendered. 

While Schwarzenberg had been contending with 
Sacken, General Kosinski with his Poles had once more 
invaded Volhynia, but was repulsed after a little skir- 
mishing by Musin-Pushkin. 

Schwarzenberg, turning from his pursuit of Sacken, 
reached Slonim again on December 7th ; but on learning 
of the catastrophe of the Grande Armee he retreated on 
the 14th to Bielostok, arriving there on the 18th. Reynier 
drew back behind the Bug. On the advance of Sacken 
and Tuchkov, to assist whom Kutuzov also directed a 
column under Miloradovich, Schwarzenberg steadily 
withdrew, there being nothing but the most insignificant 
fighting. The Austrians eventually fell back into their 



own territory, while Reynier retreated towards Saxony. 
The Polish troops remained in the Vistula fortresses, and 
were mostly captured in the following year. The little 
field army which Poniatowski was able to collect was 
allowed to join Napoleon in Saxony, since its blockade 
employed too many troops. 

Thus in the last days of December the Russian territory 
had been freed from the vast host which had threatened 
to overwhelm it. The immediate result of the campaign 
was the all but complete destruction of an army nearly 
700,000 men strong and its immense material. In all it 
would appear that, exclusive of Polish stationary troops 
and local levies other than those already mentioned, some 
674,000 combatants crossed the Vistula against Russia, 
of whom about 640,000 actually took part in military 
operations. Of these 640,000 there remained as organised 
troops at the end of the campaign only the forces of 
Schwarzenberg and Macdonald, perhaps 68,000 combat- 
ants in all. All the other corps and divisions were re- 
presented by about 25,000 disorganised and generally 
disarmed men — largely officers — without cavalry and with 
scarcely any artillery. The number of guns which 
actually entered Russia is somewhat doubtful, but appears 
to have been over 1300, exclusive of the Riga siege train. 
Of these some 250 can be accounted for as having returned. 
The Russians claimed 929 as captured ; the rest were no 
doubt abandoned and never recovered. More than 
200,000 trained horses were lost ; and it was the want of 
them which, even more than the deficiency of trained 
men, ruined Napoleon's chances in 1813. The total 
chasm in the Napoleonic ranks was over 550,000 fighting 
men. As prisoners the Russians claimed 48 generals, 
3000 officers, and 190,000 men, but it is to be feared that 
half of them were captured only to die. Even without 
making allowance for this, more than 350,000 soldiers 
must have perished, besides the tens of thousands of camp- 
followers, refugees, and other non-combatants. 


The Russian losses are extremely difficult to compute. 
It is impossible to work upon the number of men suc- 
cessfully put into the field, and those remaining active 
at the close of the campaign, since the deficiency does not, 
as in the case of the Napoleonic army, represent absolute 
loss. There are reasons for believing that the actual loss 
of fighting men was nearly 150,000. The number of 
non-combatants — largely peaceful inhabitants of the 
country — who perished must have been enormous. 

The ultimate results of the Russian victory were the 
general uprising of northern Germany against Napoleon, 
the adhesion of Austria — after considerable hesitation — to 
the anti-Napoleonic coalition, and the complete over- 
throw within little more than a year of the empire of 
force which he had built in Europe. Britain had long 
since destroyed Napoleon's efforts at gaining power on 
the sea, and had struck heavy blows at his prestige on 
land. As the Russian army lay at Tarutino it was 
gladdened by the news of Wellington's victories. And 
the prestige of Napoleon, shaken in Spain, was now shat- 
tered in Russia, and his material military power so 
broken that he was never really able again to face his 
antagonists on equal terms. It is perhaps true to say 
that the enthusiastic uprising of Germany was the chief 
factor in Napoleon's downfall in 1813, but it was Russia 
who gave the impulse and cleared the way ; and her 
military aid was of vital importance. 

S cale 


FIRST BATTLE OF POLOTSK (August 17th and 18th, 1812) 





























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Commander-in-Chief : 
H.I.M. the Emperor and King Napoleon I. 

Chief of Staff . . Marshal Berthier, Prince of Neuchatel 

„ Cavalry . H.M. the King of Naples (Marshal Murat) 

„ Artillery . Ge'ne'ral de Division Comte Lariboissiere 
„ Engineers . „ „ Comte Chasseloup 

„ Bridge Trains „ „ Baron Eote 

Intendant General . „ „ Comte Mathieu Dumas 


Maret, Duke of Bassano . . . Minister of Foreign Affairs 

Comte Daru Secretary of State 

General Duroc, Duke of Friuli . . Grand Marshal of the 

„ Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza Grand Equerry 

Baron MeneVal Secretary of the Portfolio 

„ Fain „ „ Archives 

„ Mounier „ „ Cabinet 

Colonel Baron de Ponton ... „ „ „ 

State-Council Auditor Lelorgne d'Ideville Chief Interpreter 
Baron Bacler d'Albe .... Director of Topographical 



General Officer. Department or Command. 

Ge'ne'ral de Division Junot, Due d'Abrantes . First Aide-de-Camp 
uriUOB,, „ Lebrun, Due de Placentia Aide-de-Camp 

„ „ Mouton, Comte Lobau . „ 


v^uiiilc i\a.pp 

Comte de Narbonne 



Comte Durosnel 




Comte Sokolniki 

Polish Officer At- 



Comte Sanson 

Topography and 



Baron de Caulaincourt 

Grand Head-quarters 



Comte Bailly de Monthion 

Chief of Berthier's 

Small Head-quarters 



Baron Guilleminot . 



Baron Jomini . 




Comte Lauer . 




There were in Napoleon's train a large number of General Officers 
" disposable." Most of these were appointed to commands later, and 
mostly appear in the list of Commandants of districts. 




Government of 

General of Division 

Comte Hogendorp . 


>» >? 

Baron Durutte. 


55 55 

Comte Dutaillis 


55 15 

Comte Charpentier . 


55 55 

Gomes Freyre 


55 55 

Marquis d'Alorna . 


55 55 

Baillet-de-la-Tour . 


General of Brigade 

Castella . 


55 55 



55 55 



55 55 

Ferriere . 


55 55 

Tarayre . 


55 55 



55 55 

Wedel . 


55 55 



55 55 

Bronikowski . 




Division General. 

ist Corps 

ist Infantry 


(Marechal Davout, 

2nd „ 


Prince d'Eckmuhl) 

3^ 55 


4th „ 


5th „ 



Girardin (Sept.) 


Baron Pernety 

2nd Corps 

6th Infantry 


(Mare'chal Oudinot, 8th „ 


Due de Reggio) 

9th „ 




3rd Corps 

ioth Infantry 


(Mare'chal Ney, Due nth „ 



25th „ 

Prince Royal of Wiirt 



4th Corps 

13th Infantry 


(His Imperial High 

ness 14th „ 


Prince Eugene) 

15th „ 




5th Corps 

1 6th Infantry 


(General Prince 

17th „ 



1 8th „ 







6th Corps 

(General Gouvion 


19th Infantry 
20th „ 

Division General 


7th Corps 

(General Reynier) 

2 1st Infantry 
22nd „ 

De Funck 

8th Corps 

(General Vandamne) 
(later General Junot) 

23rd Infantry 
24th „ 


9th Corps 

(Mare'chal Victor, Due 
de Belluno) 

1 2th Infantry 
26th „ 
28th „ 




ioth Corps 

(Mare'chal Macdonald, 
Due de Taranto) 

7th „ 



(1) Grawert 

(2) Yorck 

nth Corps 

(Mare'chal Augereau, 
Due de Castiglione) 

30th Infantry 

32nd „ 
33rd „ 
34th „ 







Commander-in-Chief : 
The King of Naples. 

Chief of the Staff: 

General Belliard. 



Division General. 

1st Corps 

1st Light Cavalry 
1st Heavy Cavalry 




2nd Corps 

2nd Light Cavalry 
2nd Heavy Cavalry 
4th „ 




3rd Corps 


5th Heavy Cavalry 

6th „ 

3rd Light Cavalry 




4th Corps 


4th Light Cavalry 
7th Heavy „ 














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Chief of Staff . . 
General of Service . 

Admiral Chichagov 
Lieutenant-General Sabaniev 
Major-General Berg 

„ „ Tuchkov II 

' ' Corps " 




Divisional Commanders 

General of Infantry Count de Langeron 
Lieutenant-General Essen III 

„ „ Voinov 

Major-General Bulatov 
Lieutenant-General Sabaniev 
Major-General Liiders 


Commander-in-Chief: Lieutenant-General Count Steingell 

3 Divisions (about half brought to front in September) 


Commander-in-Chief . . Marshal Prince Goldnischev-Kutuzov 

(Commander - in - Chief of all 
Russian Armies) 
. General of Cavalry Baron Bennigsen 
. Lieutenant-General Konovnitzin 
. Privy-Councillor Lansko'i 
. Major-General Baron Lbwenstern 
. Colonel Baron Toll 
Commander of Corps de Bataille General of Cavalry Count Tormazov 
Commander of Advance-Guard . General of Infantry Miloradovich 

Chief of Staff . 
General of Service 
Chief of Artillery 



BONNAL, Gen. Le Manoeuvre de Vilna. 
BERTIN DE LA Martiniere. Campagnes de Bonaparte. 
Bertin. La Catnpagne de 1812 (Te'mains Oculaires). 
Bourgeois, Dr. Rene. Tableau de la Campagne de 181 2. 
BOUSSET, L. F. J. DE. Memoires. 
BlGNON, Baron. Souvenirs d>un Diplomat. 
Bourgogne, Sergeant. Memoires. 
Bourgoing, Baron de. Souvenirs Militaires. 
Blaremburg, Lt.-Gen. von. Erinnerungen. 
Castellane. Journal du Marechal de. 
Chambray, Marquis de. Histoire de V Expedition de Russie. 
„ „ La Virite sur Fincendie de Moscow. 

Chuquet. Collected Letters, etc. 

„ Human Voices from the Campaign of 1812. 

Coignet, Le Capitaine. Memoires. 
Denriee, Le Baron. Itineraire de Napoleon. 
Fantin de Odoards. Journal du General. 

Faber du Faur, Major (Wiirttemberg Artillery). Camp of 1&12. 
Fain, Baron. Precis des Evenements de 181 2. 
Fabry, Captain (Editor). Campagne de Russie (French Staft 

History, June 23-August 20, 1812). 
Fezensac, Due DE. Memoires. 
Francois, Captain. Memoires. 
Girod DE L'AlN. Vie du General Eble. 
Grabowski. Memoires Militaires. 
Gouvion St. Cyr, Marshal. Memoires. 
Gourgaud, Gen. Examen Critique (of Se'gur's History), 
Griois, Gen. Memoires. 
Gardaruel, A. Relation . . . 181 2. 
G. L. D. L. Moscow . . . le retraite de 181 2. 
Jomini, Gen. Precis . . . de 18 12-14. 
Labaume, E. Relation complete de la Campagne de 181 2 
2 E 405 


Lejeune, Baron. Memoires. 

LABEAUDOREIRE, J. P. DE. La Campagne de Russie de 1812. 

Margueron, Commandant. Campagne de Russie (French Slaff 

History, January, 1810-January, 181 2). 
Moniteur Universe!, Le. 

Maringone, L. J. VlONNET DE. Fragments de Memoires. 
Napoleon. Correspondance, Mhnoires, etc. 
Picard. La Cavalerie dans les Guerre s de la Republique et de 

PiON des Loches, Col. Mes Campagnes. 
Paixhans, H. J. Retraite de Moscow. Notes. 
Partouneaux, Comte. Explications. 
Pradt, M. de. Histoire de PA?nbassade (to Warsaw). 
Roguet, Comte. . Memoires. 

ROOS, Ritter II. O. L. VON. With the Grand Army oj Napoleon. 
Rapp, Comte. Memoires. 
Segur, Comte de. Histoire de . . . 181 2. 
SOLIGNAC, Armand DE. La Berezi?ia. 
Seruzier, Col. Baron. Memoires Militaires. 
THIRION, A. Souvenirs Militaires. 
Vlijmen, Gen. van. Vers la Berezina (Documents). 
VAUDONCOURT, G. DE. Relation Impartiale de la Passage de la 

Zimmerman, G. Autobiography (Commissariat). 

There are innumerable volumes of memoirs which deal in part with 
the campaign. Some need using with caution — e.g. Marbot's. 


Archives. (1) Published by P. J. Schukin. 

(2) Published by Russian War Office. 
Bennigsen, Gen. Baron. Me?7ioirs. 
Buturlin. History of War of 1812 (French Translation). 
Bogdanovich. History of War of 1812 (German Translation). 
Chichagov, Admiral. Memoires (French). 
Clausewitz, Gen. K. von. Der Feldzug von 1812 (English 

Danilevski. History of War oj 1812. 
EUGEN VON Wurttemberg. Memoirs. 
Jensen. Napoleorts Ca7npaign in Russia (Danish). 
Langeron, General. Memoires (French). 
Lowenstern, Baron. Mimoires (French). 


Okunev, General. Considerations, etc. (French). 
Osten-Sacken, Freiherr von der. Der Feldzug von 18 12. 
ROSTOPCHIN, COUNT. La verite sur Vincendie de Moscow (French). 
Zapiski. Memoirs of Yermolov. 


Cathcart, Lt.-Gen. Sir George. Commentaries. 

GEORGE, H. B. Napoleons Invasion of Russia. 

Porter, Sir R. A Narrative. 

Wilson, Sir R., Gen. Narrative. 

WOLSELEY, VISCOUNT. Decline and Fall of Napoleon. 

Note. — The number of works in the French language dealing with 
the campaign of 1812 is so enormous that no attempt has been made 
to give more than a selection. 

Page 318, line 30, for "left" read "right. 




Jujy 18, 


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Russian Versts 

25 50 100 200 


Napoleonic forces indicated by shaded blocks. Roman numerals indicate Russian Corps d'Armee. 

Russian ,, ,, solid ,, Napoleonic lines of march indicated by solid lines. 

Arabic numerals indicate Napoleonic Corps dArmee. Russian „ ,, „ broken lines. 

The dates are those of the various stages of the French advance or on which they occupied important points. 
Each larger block, whether solid or shaded, indicates approximately 20,000 men. 



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Russian Versts 

25 50 100 20 


Napoleonic forces indicated by shaded blocks. Napoleonic lines of march indicated by solid lines. 

Russian „ ,, solid ,, Russian ,, „ „ broken lines 

The dates are those of the various stages of the French retreat or on which they abandoned or lost important places. 
Each larger block, solid or shaded, indicates approximately 20,000 men. 


Aa, River, 171, 172, 173, 294 

Abo, Treaty of, 286 

Achard, Colonel of French 108th, 

Adamovskoe, 301, 308 

Alexander I, Tzar of Russia, 1-15, 
18, 72, 74, 75-80, 108, 123, 144, 
145, 158, 160, 186-188, 235, 
243, 245, 246, 248, 249, 258, 

Alexiev, Russian Major-General, 


Alorna, Pedro d'Almeida, Mar- 
quis d', Portuguese General in 
French Service, 116, 357 

Amey, French General de Brigade, 

Andreossy, General, French Am- 
bassador at Constantinople, 11, 

Antopol, 163 

Arakcheiev, Count Alexei An- 
dreievich, 3, 84, 124, 187 

Aubry, Claude Charles, French 
General de Brigade, 359 

Augereau, Pierre Francois Charles, 
Due de Castiglione, Marshal 
of France, 261 

Augereau, French General de 
Brigade, 325 

Augustowo, 67, 69, 80 


Babinovichi, 102 

Bachelu, French General de Bri- 
gade, 388 

Badajoz, 12 

Baggohufwudt, Karol Feodoro- 
vich, Russian Lieut.-General, 

69, 74. 7 8 » 138, 149, 153. 154. 
193, 203, 208, 216, 217, 258 

Bagration, Prince Peter Ivano- 
vich, Russian General, 15, 16, 
19, 5*. 57. 58, 63, 65-69, 73. 77. 
78, 81, 82, 83-86, 93-98, 100, 
108, 117-121, 123-125, 129-158, 
145, 146, 156, 157, 158, 192, 
193, 194, 201-211, 246, 247 
Bakhmetiev, Russian Major- 
General, 1 02, 104, 215 
Balashov, Alexander Dmitrie- 
vich, Russian Lieut.-General, 75 
Balk, Russian Major-General, 305 
Balla, Russian Major-General, 141 
Banco, Italian Colonel, 113 
Baraguay d'Hilliers, Comte, 
French General de division, 252, 
260, 273, 315, 325, 332 
Barclay de Tolly, Mikhail Bogda- 
novich, Baron, Russian General 
and War Minister, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 
15. 16, 19, 50. 57. 58, 63, 65-70, 
73. 74. 78-80, 81, 82, 98-107, 
108, 117-121, 123-125, 129- 
158, 169, 187, 192, 193, 194, 
201-219, 226-229, 238, 245, 
246, 247, 248 
Baste, French Rear- Admiral, 59, 73 
Battles and Engagements — 
Vilkomirz, 74 
Davigelishki, 80 
Mir, 84, 85 
Romanovo, 86 
Saltanovka, 94-97 
Drissa, 100 
Ostrovno, 102-104 
Vitebsk, 105 
Velizh, 113 
Inkovo, 121 
Krasnoi, 126-128 
Smolensk, 129-143 
Gedeonovo, 147, 148 
Lubino, 148-155 
Kobrin, 162, 163 
Pruzhani, 164 



Battles and Engagements — 

Gorodeczna, 164-168 

Eckau, 1st, 172 

Schlock, 1st, 172 

Jakubovo, 173, 174 

Oboiarzina, 175, 176 

Svolna, 177 

Polotsk, 177-182 

Slavkovo, 194 

Gridnevo, 197 

Kolotskoi, 197 

Borodino, 197-219 

Mozhaisk, 222, 223 

Krymskoie, 224 

The Pakhra, 239 

Czerikovo, 239 

Voronovo, 239 

Spaskuplia, 239 

Vinkovo, 255, 259 

Vereia, 1st, 245 

Vereia, 2nd, 272 

Maloyaroslavetz, 274-285 

Kreminskoie, 284 

Biala, 292 

Slonim, 292 

Dahlenkirchen, 293 

Eckau, 2nd, 294, 295 

Sivokhino, 295 

Polotsk, 2nd, 299-305 

Viasma, 315-319 

Dorogobuzh, 324 

Vop, 325, 326 

Solovievo, 327 

Chasniki, 328 

Volkovisk, 329, 330 

Liakhova, 325 

Krasno'i (Battles), 334-343 

Smoliani, 346, 347 

Dahlenkirchen, 2nd, 347 

Novi-Swergen, 348, 349 

Borisov, 350, 351 

Lochnitza, 355 

Berezina, 359~373 

Plechenitzi, 376 

Vilna, 384 

Kovno, 385 

Koltiniani, 388 

Labiau, 388 
Bausk, 171, 294, 295 
Bavaria, Maximilian Joseph, King 

of, 9 
Bechenkowiczi, 61, 102, 114, 304, 

3°5> 327» 328 
Beguichev, Russian Major- 
General, 299, 300 

Belliard, Austin Daniel, French 
General de Division, 122 

Benkendorff, Alexander, Colonel, 
Russian, 81 

Bennigsen, Levin August Gott- 
lieb, Baron, Russian General 
(Hanoverian), 19, 52, 57, 72, 
129, 144, 145, 188, 199, 203, 
217, 226-228, 238, 245, 255, 
256, 258, 259, 308 

Berezina, 6, 56, 61, 84, 85, 89, 90, 
92, 98, 287, 292, 306, 34 8 ~373. 

374» 375. 385 
Berezino, 90, 92, 349 
Berg, Russian Ma jor-General, 173, 

175, 178, 182, 299, 300, 346, 

366, 370, 371 
Bernadotte (Crown Prince Karl 

Johann of Sweden), 13, 286 
Berthier, Alexandre, Prince de 

Neufchatel, Marshal of France, 

34, 180, 195, 242, 279, 290, 

3°9, 379, 383 
Bessidres, Jean Baptiste, Due 

d'Istria, Marshal of France, 38, 

238, 279, 282, 370, 379 
Beurmann, Paris Ernest, French 

General de Brigade, 121, 122, 

Bezdizh, 161 
Biala, 292 
Bianchi, Austrian Lieut.-General, 

165, 166, 168 
Bibikov, Russian Privy Council- 
lor, 305 
Bielostok, 62, 63, 84, 163, 260, 

291, 329, 383, 3 88 
Bielsk, 62, 80 
Bielovezhi, 329, 330 
Billard, 356, 366 
Bobr, 61, 89, 328, 356, 359 
Bobruisk, 6, 61, 62, 84, 85, 90, 91, 

92, 93, 108, 122, 159, 160, 262, 

293, 358, 386 
Bogdanovich, quoted, 200, 219, 

256, 292 
Boghorodsk, 244 
Bolshoi-Stakhov, 365, 367, 368 
Bonami, 209, 210 
Bordesoulle, Etienne Tardif de 

Pommereaux, Comte de, French 

Gen6ral de Brigade, 89, 90, 98 
Borisov, 6, 61, 89, 90, 189, 260, 

306,1348, 353, 355-356, 358, 359. 

361, 364. 305» 366, 367, 372, 375 



Borodino, 57, 196, 197, 198, 199. 

200-207, 220, 221, 223, 241, 

248, 249, 31° 
Borovsk, 269, 272, 273, 274, 280, 

Borozdin I, Mikhail, Russian 

Lieut.-General, 84, 86, 90, 93, 

94, 97, 136, 137, 203, 205, 209, 

216, 279 
Borozdin II, Nikolai Mikhailovich, 

Russian Major-General, 212 
Bourgogne, Sargent, quoted, 231, 

Bug, 59, 108, 161, 163, 291, 388 
Bulatov, Russian Major-General, 

287, 289, 330 
Buturlin, Dmitri Petrovich, 

Count, Russian military author, 

quoted, 219, 232, 275, 304 
Bukharest, 11, 168, 287, 289 
Brazhino, 193 
Brest-Litovsk, 19, 59, 62, 63, 84, 

159, 161, 162, 291, 292, 306, 329, 

Bridzievo, 99 

Brilova, 358, 367 

Bronikowski (Pole), French 

Governor of Minsk, 260, 348- 

35o, 352 
Broussier, Jean Baptiste, Comte, 

French General de Division, 38, 

105, 207, 209, 214, 239, 240, 

270, 276, 278, 285, 318, 326 
Bruyere, French General de 

Division, 38, 74, 102, 105, 148, 

149, 152 

Castex, Bertrand Pierre, French 

General de Brigade, 74, 180, 

Caulaincourt, Comte Auguste, 

French General de Division, 

214, 215 
Caulaincourt, Armand Marquis 

de, Due de Vicenza, 10, 379 
Cavaignac, French General de 

Brigade, 261 
Chabachevichi, 358-362 
Chaplitz, Russian Major-General, 

162, 164, 165, 168, 292, 328, 
. 348, 349, 358, 361, 363, 367, 

368, 374. 375, 37<>, 378, 381, 


Chambray, Georges, Marquis de, 

French soldier and author, 139, 

172, 205, 242, 267, 268, 325, 

346, 364, 375, 376, 380 
Charpentier, French General de 

Division, 116, 123, 252 
Charrier, French General de 

Brigade, 270 
Chasniki, 305, 327, 328 
Chasseloup - Laubat, Francois, 

Comte, French Engineer - 

General, 356, 359 
Chastel, Pierre Louis Aime, Baron, 

French General de Division, 127 
Chelkanovo, 325, 333 
Chepelev, Russian Major-General, 

Cherbatov, Alexei Grigorievich, 

Prince, Russian Major-General, 

165-167, 292, 368 
Cherechev, 164, 165, 166 
Chereia, 328, 345, 347, 356 
Chernishev, Colonel Alexander 

Ivanovich, 10, 291, 292, 348, 


Chernishnia, 239, 240, 244, 258 

Chichagov, Pavel Vasilievich, 
Russian Admiral, 11, 53, 168, 
169, 262, 286-292, 296, 306, 
328, 329, 33i, 345, 348-368, 372, 
375, 376, 381, 382, 386 

Chilova, 333, 334 

Choglokov, Pavel Nikolaievich, 
Russian Major-General, 102, 
15°, 152, 319, 333, 34° 

Ciudad Rodrigo, 12 

Claparede, Michel, Comte, French 
General de Division, 39, 90, 
92, 97, 104, 148, 224, 231, 238, 
240, 256, 259, 280, 281, 284, 
334, 337, 357, 362, 364 

Clausewitz, General, quoted, 80, 
98, 105, 145, 170, 188, 192, 193, 
197, 199, 200, 213, 224, 227, 
245, 254, 255, 356 

Colbert, French General de 
Brigade, 83, 88, 90, 104, 238 

Compans, Jean Dominique, Comte, 
French General de Division, 38, 
83, 92, 94, 97, 140, 191, 202, 
205, 206, 279 

Constantine Pavlovich, H.I.H. 
Grand Duke, brother of Alex- 
ander I, 119, 136, 137, 144, 
146, 248, 353, 387 


Continental System, 15^ 
Corbineau, Jean Baptiste Juvenal, 

French General de Brigade, 

*73» 178, 181, 182, 299, 302, 

3°5, 327, 347. 353. 360 
Coutard, French General de 

Brigade, 251, 296, 347;. 
Czerikovo, 239 tj 

Dahlenkirchen, 293, 294 FF"" 

Dandels, Hermann Willem, Dutch 

General, 305, 327, 328, 366 
Danilevski, quoted, 75 
Danzig, 3, 15, 16, 19, 61, 67, 261, 

377. 386, 388 
Daru, Comte, French Minister, 


Dashkova, 94, 96, 97 

D'Auvray (Dauvray), Saxon 
Major-General in Russian ser- 
vice, 170, 177 

Davidov, Russian Colonel (Cos- 
sacks), 250, 325 

Davout, Louis Nicholas, Prince 
d'Eckmuhl and Marshal of 
France, 13, 15, 16, 18, 35, 70, 
71, 73, 78, 79, 81-84, 86, 88, 89- 
98, 112, 113, 114, 115, 117, 122, 
126, 132, 134, 138, 140-144, 
145, 147, 148-156, 159, 191. 195. 
197, 204-218, 221, 222, 224, 
270, 272, 278, 280, 281, 282, 
284, 307, 308, 310, 312, 314, 
315-319. 332, 334. 335. 336, 
337-34°. 344. 354. 356, 359, 
362, 364, 366, 374, 379, 382 

Delaitre, French General de 
Brigade, 366 

Delzons, Alexis Joseph, Baron, 
French General de Division, 
103, 207, 213, 216, 271, 272, 
276, 285 

Delzons, Captain, 276 

Deroy, Bernard Erasmus, Ba- 
varian General, 178, 180, 181, 

Desaix, Joseph Marie, Comte, 
French General de Division, 
38, 83, 92, 94, 97, 114, 140, 205, 

Desna, 61, 298, 300, 302, 304 

D'Estrees, French General de 
Division, 261, 377 

Diebich,"*' Russian Major- General 

1 (Prussian), 170, 180, 370, 387 

Dmitrov, 244 

Dnieper, 6, 11, 60, 61, 84, 90, 97, 
98, 109, 117, 121, 122, 123, 125, 
126, 132, 136, 139, 144, 148, 

327. 342 

Dniester, 287 

Dode, French General of En- 
gineers, 357 

Dokhturov, Dmitri Sergievich, 
Russian General, 55, 68, 70, 78, 
79, 80, 81, 106, 132, 137-143. 
145, 147, 155, 202, 203, 207, 213, 
216, 226, 227, 247, 271, 272, 273, 
274-279, 284, 352 

Dolgoruki, Prince, Russian Lieut. - 
General, 336 

Dombrowski, Jan Henryk, Polish 
General, 122, 123, 260, 293, 
348-351, 355, 361, 364, 368 

Doronimo, 202 

Dorogobuzh, 155, 192, 193, 194, 
196, 320, 321, 324, 325 

Dorogomilov Suburb (Moscow) , 
230, 231 

Dorokhov, Ivan Semenovich, 
Russian Major-General, 73, 78, 
82, 83, 84, 97, 105, 237, 239, 244, 
250, 270, 271, 272, 274, 284, 

Dorsenne, General, 122 

Doumerc, Jean Pierre, Baron, 
French General de Division, 78, 
173, 174, 180, 182, 260, 296, 
299. 3°5. 368 

Drissa, 7, 61, 80, 87, 88, 98-100, 
101, 104, 109, 169, 173, 174, 176, 

177. 295 
Druia, 80, 173, 297, 298, 299 
Dubno, 289, 290 
Dubrovna, 98, 335 
Duka. Russian Major-General, 

203, 340 
Dukhovchina, 324, 326 
Dumas, Mathieu, Comte, French 
» General de Division, 116 
Diina, 2, 6, n, 60, 61, 79, 80, 84, 

99, 100, 102, 105, 109, 114, 123, 

170, 172, 173, 176, 178, 179, 180, 

293. 295. 297. 298, 299, 300, 302, 

303. 3°4. 305. 306, 347 
Diinaburg, 6, 7, 60, 61, 62, 80, 89, 

100, 109, 169, 170,^172,1173, 176, 

295. 304' 



Dufour, French General de Bri- 
gade, 222, 224, 240, 256, 259 

Duroc, General; Napoleon's Grand 
Marshal of Palace, 379 

Durosnel, Comte, French General 
de Division, 230 

Durutte, Joseph Francois, French 
General de Division, 261, 329, 

Duverger, Paymaster, quoted, 236 

Eble, Jean Baptiste, Baron, 
French General de Division 
(Artillery), 71, 122, 148, 334, 
344. 345. 356, 359-302, 371-373. 
375, 3 8 3, 386 

Eckau, 171, 172, 294 

Ekeln, Russian Colonel, 294, 296 

Engelhart, Russian Major-General, 


Ertel, Feodor Feodorovich, Rus- 
sian Lieut-General, 262-287, 
293, 328 

Essen I, Ivan Ivanovich, Russian 
Lieut. -General, 170, 172, 262, 
293, 294, 295, 347 

Essen III, Peter Kirillovich, Rus- 
sian Lieut.-General, 287, 289, 
292, 328, 330 

Eugen of Wurttemberg, Prince, 
Russian Major-General, 13, 18, 
36, 56, 141, 142, 143, 147, 148, 
154, 208, 216, 318, 319, 234 

Eugene de Beauharnais, Prince, 
Viceroy of Italy, 13, 16, 63, 
64, 66, 68, 69, 80, 100-105, 114, 
119, 121, 122, 126, 132, 148, 
192, 193, 197, 205, 207, 223, 
230, 244, 270, 271, 272, 273, 
319, 320, 324, 325, 326, 332, 334, 
335, 336, 337, 345, 354, 362, 364, 
366, 374, 379 

Evers, French General de Brigade 
(Dutch), 259, 262, 284, 314 

French Army, Organisation, 
Armament, Discipline, Cloth- 
ing, Equipment, etc., 17, 21, 
22, 23-29, 30, 31-33, 39, 63-76, 
77, 109-116, 261-269, 309-314, 
321-324, 331-333, 344-345, 364, 
365, 375, 376, 380, 384-386 

French Army Corps — 

1st Corps, 13, 15, 17, 18, 64, 68, 
71, 72, 73, 83, 89, 90, 92, 
94-97, 114, 122, 126, 132- 
143, 193-225, 284, 307, 314, 
315-320, 332, 333, 334-343, 

2nd Corps, 13, 16, 18, 64, 68, 73, 

75, 100, 114, 173-182, 295, 
296, 298-306, 345-347. 353- 
373. 374 

3rd Corps, 13, 16, 17, 18, 64, 68, 
73, 100, 114, 121, 122, 126, 
127, 132-143, 147-155, 193- 
225, 284, 307, 314, 315-321, 

324. 327, 334-343. 364 
4th Corps, 16, 18, 63, 64, 69, 

76, 78, 88, 100, 102-106, 114, 
122, 126, 132-143, 193-225, 
273-282, 284, 307, 314, 315- 
320, 325-327, 332, 334-343, 

5th Corps (Poles), 15, 16, 18, 63, 
64, 67, 81, 84, 91, 92, 114, 
122, 126, 132-143, 193-225, 
238-240, 255-259, 284, 307, 
314, 315-320, 334 

6th Corps (Bavarians), 18, 63, 
64, 69, 76, 88, 100, 114, 176- 
182, 295, 296, 298-306, 347, 
375, 382-384 

7th Corps (Saxons), 13, 15, 16, 
18, 19, 63, 64, 67, 80, 81, 91, 
92, 114, 159, 169, 292, 328- 


8th Corps, 13, 16, 18, 19, 63, 64, 
67, 80, 81, 84, 87, 91, 92, 114, 
122, 126, 132-143, 193-225, 
284, 307, 3M, 333, 364 

9th Corps, 14, 114, 251, 252, 
260, 296, 297, 305, 325, 327, 
328, 345-347, 356-373. 374- 

10th Corps, 63, 64, 68, 73, 114, 
171-173, 293, 295, 347, 348 

nth Corps, 14, 114, 261, 373 

Imperial Guard, 13, 16, 18, 
22-23, 25, 63, 64, 68, 73, 88, 
114, 115, 122, 126, 132-143, 
193-225, 284, 307, 314, 332, 

334-343, 364 
Reserve Cavalry, 13, 16, 18, 29, 
63, 64, 68, 70, 72, 73, 74, 78, 
86, 90, 91, 100, 121, 122, 126, 
127-129, 132-143, 148, 152, 

2 s 2 


French Army — 

193-225, 238-240, 255, 259, 
284, 307, 314, 332, 334-343. 
Artillery, 13, 75, 241, 265, 268, 

332, 334-343- 364 
Fain, Baron, Napoleon's Private 

Secretary, 242 
Fatova, 94, 96 
Federovskoie, 316, 318 
Ferrier, French General de 

Brigade, 239 
Fezensac, Raymond de Montes- 

quiou, Due de, French Colonel, 

88, 112, 234, 244, 312, 320, 

364. 385 
Figner, Russian Captain, 250, 

253. 325 

Fili, 226 

Fock, Alexander, Russian Major- 
General (Holsteiner), 346, 366, 


Fominskoie, 269, 271, 272, 280 

Fournier, French General de 
Brigade, 368, 371 

Foy, Maximilien, French General 
de Division, 13 

Francois, Captain, quoted, 142, 
209, 221 

Frankfort-on-Oder, 16 

Friant, Louis, Comte, French 
General de Division, 38, 78, 
115, 122, 140, 205, 208, 209 

Friederichs, French General de 
Brigade, 94, 96, 238, 240, 340 

Frimont, Austrian Lieut.-General, 
166, 330 

Froelich, Austrian Cavalry Briga- 
dier, 166 

Gablenz, Saxon Cavalry Briga- 
dier, 166 

Gaszinski, Polish poet, 9 

Gedeonovo, 147, 149, 153 

Gerard, Etienne Maurice, French 
General de Brigade, 152-155, 
205, 207, 214, 279, 316, 338 

Gerard, Jean Baptiste, French 
General de Division, 366, 368 

Girod, General Baron, quoted, 

Glogau, 13, 15, 16 

Glubokoie, 61, 88, 100, 116, 305, 

Golenischev - Kutuzov, Mikhail 
Hilarionovich, Prince, Russian 
Marshal and Commander-in- 
Chief, 52, 57, 188, 194, 203-219, 
221, 222, 223, 224, 225-229, 243, 
245, 247-251, 255, 256, 258, 

259, 261, 270, 271, 274, 276, 
279-284, 291, 307, 308, 314, 
316, 318, 333-342. 35i. 352. 363. 
375. 386 

Golenischev - Kutuzov, Major - 
General (Russian), 326, 375, 
387, 388 m 

Golitzin I, Dmitri Vladimirovich, 
Prince, Russian Lieut.-General, 
249, 250, 276, 318, 337-34° 

Gomes, Freyre, Portuguese 
General in French service, 116 

Gonsherevo, 307 

Gorbunovo, 131, 146, 147, 148 

Gorchakov, Alexei, Prince, Rus- 
sian Lieut.-General, 57, 201, 
202, 203 

Gorki, 198, 200, 202, 216 

Gorodnia, 279, 281, 282 

Gorodeczna, 164-168, 169, 185, 

Gouvion, St. Cyr, Laurent, Comte, 
Marshal of France, 36, 50, 114, 
176, 177, 178, 179-182, 185, 

260, 286, 287, 295-304 
Grant, U.S. General, example, 

cited, 245 
Grandjean, Charles Louis Dieu- 
donne, Baron, French General 
de Division, 89, 171, 172, 294, 

295. 387 

Grawert, Prussian General, 171, 
172, 293. 294. 

Gridnevo, 197, 201 

Grodno, 59, 62, 64, 69, 78, 80, 
81, 82 

Grouchy, Emmanuel, Marquis de, 
French General de Division, 27, 
78, 90, 92, 100, 126, 127, 148, 
205, 207, 215, 345 

Gudin, Charles Etienne Cesar, 
Comte, French General de Divi- 
sion, 38, 78, 122, 134, 140, 149, 
150, 152 

Guilleminot, Baron, French 
General de Brigade, 276, 278, 

Guyon, French General de Brigade, 
123, 189 



Gzhatsk, 194, 196, 197, 200, 201, 
252, 259, 269, 284, 314 


Hamen, Russian Major-General, 

176, 177, 182, 305 
Hardenberg, Baron , Prussian 

Prime Minister, 297 
Harpe, Russian Major- General, 

Haxo, French General de Division, 

70, 71 
Helfreich, Russian Major-General, 

175, I77> 178 
Hesse-Darmstadt, Prince Emil of, 


Hesse-Homburg, Prince of, Aus- 
trian Major-General, 165, 166 

Heudelet, French General de 
Division, 261, 388 

Hogendorp, Dirk van, Dutch 
Lieut. -General, 296 

Hohenlohe, Prince, Wurttemberg 
Colonel, 80 

Horodetz, 163 

Huard, French General de Bri- 
gade, 103, 104 

Hugel, Wurttemberg Brigadier- 
General, 145 

Hunerbein, Prussian Major- 
General, 294, 295 


Iachvil, Lev Mikhailovich, 
Prince, Russian Major-General, 
175, 178, 299, 300, 303, 346, 

Ielnia, 130, 269, 273, 315, 320, 

Ignatiev, Russian Major-General, 

Igumen, 61, 90, 91, 349 
Illuxt, 295 
Ilovaiski IV, Cossack General, 


Ilovaiski V, Cossack Major- 
General, 65 

Ilovaiski IX, Cossack Colonel, 

. 284, 306 

Inkovo, 121, 122 

Insterburg, 61 


Jakobstadt, 61, 173 

Jakubovo, 173, 174 

Jassy, 289 

Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, 
King of Westphalia, 18, 63, 64, 
69, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82, 84, 87, 88, 

Jomini, French General de Bri- 
gade (Swiss), 116, 184, 255, 308, 

334. 357 

Junot, Andoche, Due d'Abrantes, 
French General de Division, 
116, 126, 139, 146, 148, 149, 152, 
155, 223, 259, 263, 270, 281, 284, 
3°9, 3 IO « 324. 325. 332, 333. 334. 

335, 354. 364 
Jurovo, 333 


Kaisarov, 250 

Kakhovski, Russian Major-Gen- 
eral, 173, 178 

Kalisch, 15, 16 

Kaluga, 117, 118, 227, 237, 238, 
254, 255, 269, 307 

Kamenetz-Podolski, 289 

Kamenski, Sergei Mikhailovich, 
Russian Lieut. -General, 161, 
164, 165 

Kapsevich, Russian Major-Gen- 
eral, 128 

Karpenko, Russian Colonel, 207 

Karpov, Russian Major-General 
(Cossacks) 138, 140, 141, 142, 
143, 147, 148, 152, 250 

Kasplia (Lake), 124, 136 

Katan, 121, 124, 125, 132, 134, 

Keidani, 68, 73, 74 

Khovanski, Prince, Russian 
Major-General, 164, 165, 168 

Kiev, 6, 61, 62, 66, 160, 348 

Kleist, Prussian Major-General, 

Klengel, Saxon Major-General, 
159, 161-163 

Kliastitzi, 173 

Kniaziewicz, Karol, Polish Gen- 
eral of Division, 140, 368 

Kobrin, 62, 159, 161-163, I ^4, 168 

Koidanow, 349 

Kolomna, 228, 237 


Kolopenichi, 359 

Kolotskoi", 196, 197, 201, 209, 213, 
220, 223, 310 

Kolotza, 197, 198, 199, 200, 205, 

Koltiniani, 387 

Kolubakin, Russian Major-Gen- 
eral, 96, 131, 209, 210 

Konigsberg, 15-16, 18, 19, 67, 76, 
163, 261, 385. 386, 388 

Konopka, Polish General, 260 

Konovnitzin, Peter Ivanovith, 
Count, Russian Lieut. -General, 
56, 57. 103. i°4> I37> 138, 140, 
143, 150-153. 187, 194, 195. 
197, 201, 206, 209, 211, 227, 
239, 248, 259 

Kopis, 342, 352, 375 

KorfT, Feodor Karolovich, Baron, 
Russian Lieut. -General, 64, 80, 
136, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 
153, 154, 203, 249, 258, 276, 
315, 319, 337 

Korythnia, 127, 128, 129, 337 

Kosinski, Polish General, 164, 169, 

Kossecki, Polish General of Bri- 
gade, 348, 349 

Kotschubey, Count, 187 

Kovel, 168 

Kovno, 59, 61, 62-64, 67, 68, 70- 
73, 80, 260, 383, 384 

Kozakovski, Russian Major- 
General, 175, 182 

Krasnoi, 125, 126, 127, 128, 130, 

333, 334. 335~343> 35* 
Kreminskoie, 284 
" Kremlin," The (Russ. Kreml), 

230, 231, 234, 235, 236, 241, 

270, 273 
Kreutz, Russian Major-General, 

79, 203, 210 
Kruchov, Russian Major-General, 

161, 163 
Krupki, 354, 359 
Krymniki, 289 
Krymskoie, 224 
Kubinskoi, 224 
Kudachev, Prince, Russian 

Colonel, 244, 250 
Kulnev, Yakov Petrovich, Rus- 
sian Major-General, 74, 75, 100, 

Kurland, 108, 170, 171, 260 
Kurakin, Prince Alexander Bor- 

isovich, Russian Ambassador 
to Paris, 10, 11 
Kutalsov, Alexander Ivanovich, 
Count, Russian Major-General, 
57. 153. 210 

Labiau, 388 

Laborde, Comte, French Gendral 
de Division, 225, 243, 270, 337, 

La Houssaye, Armand Lebrun, 

Comte de, French General de 

Division, 127 
Lambert, Comte Charles (French), 

Russian Major-General, 160, 

161, 162, 164-168, 290, 328, 


Lanchantin, French General de 
Brigade, 341 

Langeron, Alexandre Andrault, 
Comte de, French General in 
Russian Army, 251, 287, 289, 
328, 349, 350, 351, 358, 359, 363, 
372, 381, 382 

Lansko'i I, Russian Privy Coun- 
cillor, 237 

Lanskoi II, Russian Major- 
General, 376 

Lariboissiere, Jean Ambroise 
Baston, Comte de, French 
General in Artillery, 241, 383, 

Larionovo, 337 

Larrey, Surgeon-General, Baron, 

Latour - Maubourg, Marie Victor 
Nicolas Fay, Marquis de, 
French General de Division, 38, 
80, 86, 91, 98, 113, 114, 126,139, 
159, I 9 I , 205, 210, 212, 256, 
332, 334. 335. 337 

Lauriston, Comte, French General 
de Division, 10, 243, 251 

Lavrov, Russian Lieut. -General, 

Lecoq, Karl Christian Erdmann 
Edler, Saxon Lieut.-General,i66 

Lecchi, Theodoro, Italian General 
of Brigade, 216 

Ledru des Essarts, Francois Roch, 
French General de Division, 38, 
ii2, 134, 140-143, 150, 153, 
205, 206, 280, 318, 376 



Lefebvre, Francois Joseph, Due 
de Danzig, Marshal of France, 
38, 236, 379 

Legrand, Claude Juste Alexandre, 
Count, French General de Di- 
vision, 38, 100, 173, 174, 175, 
176, 178-182, 300, 303, 304, 327, 
328, 368 

Lejeune, Louis Francois, Baron, 
French General de Brigade, 212, 

2i5» 354 

Lepel, 61, 90, 91, 305, 327, 365 

Lesseps, M., 230 

Lewis, Russian Lieut.-General, 
171, 172, 173, 293. 294, 347, 388 

Liadi, 126, 132, 334, 338, 340 

Lida, 64, 65, 68, 73, 78, 79 

Lieven, Count Christopher, Rus- 
sian Diplomatist, 99, 249 

Lieven, Count, Russian Major- 
General, 328, ,330 

Likhachev, Russian Major - Gen- 
eral, 138, 141-143, 210, 214, 

Lilienberg, Austrian Major-Gen- 
eral, 166 

Liozna, 114, 122 

Lithuania (Modern Western Rus- 
sia), 60, 76, 116, 190, 191 

Lobau, Comte (General Mouton), 
100, 101, 102, 104, 379 

Lochnitza, 350, 352, 355 

Loison, Louis Henri, Comte, 
French General de Division, 
163, 261, 377, 379, 382, 384 

Lopuklin, Prince, 187 

Lossmina, 2, 126-128, 334, 335, 
337, 338, 34i 

Low, Saxon Major-General, 296, 

Lowenstern, Colonel Baron, 118, 
I 53. l8 7» 204, 214, 215, 216, 
226, 239, 251, 253, 256, 276, 
278, 327 

Lowenstern, Baron, Major- 
General of Artillery, Russian, 

Lubino, 131, 146-155, 183 

Lublin, 64, 67, 69, 1 60 

Lubra, 335 

Luchizza, R., 104, 105 

Luders, Russian Major-General, 
262, 288, 348 

Lukoml, 346 

Lukomlia, R., 327, 328, 346 

Lukovkin, Cossack Colonel, 350, 

35i» 358 
Lutsk, 15, 16, 19, 62, 159, 160, 168 
Luzha, R., 275, 279, 282 


Macdonald, Jacques Etienne 
Joseph Alexandre, Duke de 
Taranto, Marshal of France, 37, 
64, 171, 172, 176, 260, 287, 293, 
347, 348, 386-388, 389 

Maison, French General de Di- 
vision, 300, 303 

Malakova Gate of Smolensk, 130, 
140, 141, 145 

Maliavka, 359 

Maloyaroslavetz, 269-285, 307, 

Marchand, Jean Gabriel, Comte, 
French General de Division, 81, 

Maret, Hugues Bernard, Due de 
Bassano, French Minister for 
Foreign Affairs, 146, 269, 296, 
33i» 377. 378> 380 

Maria Louisa, Empress of the 
French, 2, 18 

Markov I, Russian Lieut.-General, 
161, 164, 165, 166, 168 

Markov II, Count, Russian Lieut.- 
General, 200 

Marthod, French Major, 244 

Massenbach, Prussian Lieut.- 
General, 347, 387, 388 

Maximo vo, 316 

Meade, U.S. General, example 
cited, 245 

Mecklenburg, Prince Karl of, 
Russian Major-General, 85, 93, 

Medyn, 269, 280, 307, 308 

Melissino, Russian Major-General, 
161, 162-164, I ^5, 330 

Memel, 388 

Merle, Pierre Hugues Victor, 
Comte, French General de 
Division, 38, 173, 174, 178, 179- 
182, 299, 300, 303, 304 

Merlino, 336 

Metternich, Prince, Austrian 
Prime Minister, 3, 8, 116, 297 

Michino, 199, 202 

Mikalevka, 321, 334, 345 


Miloradovich, Mikhail Andreie- 
vich, Russian General, 55, 57, 
194, 200, 203, 224, 225, 229, 
230, 237, 238, 239, 240, 247, 
250, 256, 258, 259, 270, 271, 
274, 289, 307, 308, 309, 314- 
320, 324, 333, 334-34 1 * 352, 
375, 388 

Minsk, 61, 62, 64, 65, 69, 73, 77, 
78, 81, 82, 83, 84, 89, 91, 115, 
I 59» 189, 190, 260, 269, 286, 

292, 306, 328, 329, 345, 348, 
349, 35i, 353, 362 

Mir, 81, 83, 84, 85 

Mitau, 59, 61, 63, 89, 171, 172, 

293, 294, 295 
Mogelnitza-on-Bug, 91 
Mohilev, 61, 84, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 

97, 104, 108, 109, 113, 122, 123, 
130, 260, 293, 357 

Molodechno, 357, 376, 377 

Momonovo, 225 

Montbrun, Louis Pierre, Comte, 
French General de Division, 38, 
78, 102, 104, 105, 122, 123, 126, 
127, 152, 206, 214 

Montholon, Comte, quoted, 263 

Morand, Louis Charles Antoine 
Alexis, Comte, French General 
de Division, 38, 71, 78, 140, 
149, 154, 204, 205, 207, 209, 

Mordvinov, Chamberlain, 305 

Mortier, Edouard Adolphe 
Casinir Joseph, Due de Treviso, 
Marshal of France, 38, 88, 223, 
224, 230, 231, 270, 273, 274, 
281, 284, 309, 315, 338, 340, 


Moscow (Moskva), 62, 65, 185, 
186, 194, 218, 219, 225-240, 
242-244, 259, 261, 263-270, 
271, 273, 289, 306, 315 

Moskva, R, 198-200, 237 

Mourier, French General de Bri- 
gade, 139 

Mozhaisk, 197, 198, 217, 221, 222, 
223, 224, 225, 237, 259, 281, 
283, 284, 307, 308, 309, 310, 


Mozyr, 62, 93, 161, 262, 287, 293, 
328, 349, 386 

Mstislavl, 97, 106, 130 

Miiller, Rear-Admiral von, Rus- 
sian., 293 

Miiller Zakomelski, Peter Ivano- 
vich, Russian Major-General, 
249, 250, 256, 258 

Murat, Joachim Napoleon, King 
of Naples, Marshal of France, 
x 4» 37, 73, 7 8 » I0I » 102-104, 
106, 113, 121, 122, 126, 127- 
129, 132, 134, 138, 140, 141, 152, 
I 9 I » J 95» 210-216, 222, 223, 
224, 229, 230, 231, 238, 239, 
240, 244, 255, 256, 258, 259, 
271, 279, 282, 309, 379, 380, 
382, 383, 385 

Musin Pushkin, Russian Major- 
General, 328, 388 


Nadva, 124 

Nansouty, Etienne Marie Cham- 
pion de, Comte, French General 
de Division, 37, 38, 79, 100, 
102, 103, 104, 122, 126, 127, 
148, 152, 189, 206, 209, 256 

Napoleon I, Emperor of the 
French, 1-16, 18, 19, 33, 34, 
37, 63, 67-73, 75, 77, 78, 81, 
83, 87, 88, 89, 100-102, 104- 
107, 108, 113-117, 120, 122, 
123, 134-144, x 46. 148, 149, 
155, 156, 158, 159, 160, 161, 
171, 172, 176, 177, 183-186, 
188-192, 193-197, 201, 202, 
204-219, 220-223, 225, 229- 
231, 235-240, 241-244, 254, 
255, 259, 263-271, 273, 279- 
283, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 
321, 324, 325, 333-34°, 342, 
343, 344, 345, 351-362, 364, 
365. 368-373, 374, 377-38o, 
386, 389, 390 

Nara, 245, 256 

Narbonne, Comte, 11 

Narew, R., 81 

Nelson, Admiral, example of, 
quoted, 212 

Nesvizh, 62, 81, 84, 85, 86 

Nevel, 296 

Neverovski, Dmitri Petrovich, 
Russian Major-General, 56, 65, 
98, 120, 125, 126-129, 131, 132, 
202, 206 

Ney, Michel, Due d'Elchingen, 
Marshal of France, 13, 17, 35, 
73, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 112, 



114, 116, 121-123, 126-129, 
132-135, 139-143. 145. 147. 

I 55> J9 1 , 205-218, 220, 224, 
234, 244, 270, 271, 272, 274, 
280, 307, 314, 316-320, 321, 
324. 327, 332, 333. 334. 336, 
337. 34L 342, 354. 357. 362, 
364, 307-373. 374-381, 384. 385 

Niemen, R., 18, 19, 59-61, 63-70, 
72, 73, 75, 76, 80, 82, 89, 108, 
191, 348, 384, 385. 386 

Nikolaev, 82 

Nitcha, R., 174 

Nizhnii Novgorod, 227 

Norway, 13 

Novi Bykhov, 97, 106 

Novi Dvor, 65 

Novi Svergen, 62, 348 

Novi Troki, 77, 80, 88 

Novigrodek, 62, 82, 84 

Novosilki, 96, 97 

Oboiarzina, 174, 175 

Ochmiana, 61, 79, 81, 377, 379, 382 

Ochs, Westphalian General of 
Division, 152 , 

Oder, R., 3, 261 

Okunev, General, quoted, 66, 158 

Oldenburg, 2, 3 

Olsuviev, Zacharii Dmitrievich, 
Russian Ma jor-General, 154, 208 

Orani, 73, 78 

Orders (Russian) — 
St. George, 247 
St. Andrew, 192 
St. Vladimir, 247 
St. Alexander Nevski, 247 

Orlov - Denisov, Vasilii Vasilie- 
vich, Russian Ma jor-General, 
150, 152, 250, 256, 258, 325, 375 

Ornano, Polish General of Divi- 
sion, 207 

O'Rourke, Russian Major-General, 

Orsha, 60, 61, 90, 91, 92, 94, 104, 
"4. 156,-189, 260, 305, 334, 
336, 342/343. 344. 350, 35L 

^ 353, 354 

Ostermann - Tolstoi, Alexander 
Ivanovich, Count, Russian 
Lieut.-General, 102-104, 138, 
203, 207, 215, 216, 227, 247, 
258, 337 

Ostrog, 62, 286, 289 

Ostrovno, 102, 104, 105 

Oudinot, Charles Nicolas, Due de 
Reggio, Marshal of France, 13, 
35. 74. 75. 78, 100, 101, 114, 
172, 173-179, 182, 345, 346, 
353. 355. 357-359, 361, 362, 
364, 365, 367, 368, 372, 376 

Ozharovski, Count, Russian 
Major-General, 250, 272, 334, 
336. 338 

Pahlen I, Peter Petrovich von der, 
Count, Russian Major-General, 
79, i°5. IQ 6, 136, 147, 203 

Pahlen II, Pavel Petrovich, Count, 
Russian Major-General, 353, 

355. 358, 359, 363, 367 
Pajol, Claude Pierre, French 

General de Brigade, 72, 78, 79, 

90, 92, 123, 189, 196 
Pakhra, R., 237, 238, 239, 240 
Panki, 229 
Paris, 380 
Partouneaux, Louis, Comte, 

French General de Division, 

346, 356, 366, 367 
Paskievich, Ivan Feodorovich, 

Russian Major-General, 57, 93, 

96, 97, 120, 129, 131, 158, 209, 

210, 307, 308, 310, 316, 318, 319, 

336, 34i 

Paulucci, the Marchese di, Rus- 
sian Lieut.-General (Italian), 
99, 101, 347, 388 

Pelletier, French General de Bri- 
gade, 319 

Perebrod, 100 

Petrovski Palace, 236 

Phillipon, Baron, French General 
de Division, 336 

Phull, Baron Karl, German Lieut.- 
General in Russian Service, 7, 
54, 66, 80, 98, 99, 100 

Pilwiski, 67, 68, 385 

Pino, Dominico, Comte, Italian 
General, 38, 189, 205, 217, 223, 
242, 278, 285, 336 

Pinsk, 91, 162, 286, 293 

Pinsk Marshes, 16, 19, 41, 60, 62, 
86, 161, 163 

Pion des Loches, Colonel, quoted, 


Pire, French General de Brigade, 

Platov, Matvei Ivanovich, Rus- 
sian General of Cossack, 53, 65, 
66, 73, 78, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 
86, 93, 97, 105, 121, 138, 193. 
I94» 203, 213, 216, 222, 223, 
224, 227, 249, 250, 270, 274, 
282, 307, 308, 314, 316, 318, 
319, 320, 324, 325, 326, 333, 
337. 342, 352, 354. 364. 367. 
382-384, 385, 386 

Plauzonne, French General de 
Brigade, 207 

Plechenitzi, 376 

Plock, 15 

Poddubno, 165, 166 

Poland, 2, 8, 60 

Polonka, 163 

Polota, R., 177, 178, 299, 300 

Polotsk, 61, 100, 101, 102, 104, 
169, 173, 176, 177-182, 185, 
254, 260, 261, 287, 295, 296, 
298-304, 305, 306, 347 

Poniatowski, Joseph Anthony, 
Polish Prince and General, 36, 
80, 81, 92, 98, 135, 140, 141, 
148, 193, 204, 207, 208, 216, 
223, 224, 256, 271, 272, 281, 

307» 3M» 315. 3!6, 3* 8 > 319, 

326, 389 
Poniemon, 70, 71 
Population of Russian Towns, 63 
Poriechie, 106, 109, 114, 118, 121, 

124, 132, 156, 157 
Posen, 16 
Potemkin, Russian Colonel, 216, 

Pouget, Baron, French General 

de Brigade, 328 
Pradt, Dufour de, Archbishop of 

Malines, 9, 191 
Praga, 291, 368 
Pregel, R., 388 
Preising, Graf von, Bavarian 

Major-General, 116, 207, 331 
Prenn, 80 

Prikaz Vidra, 121, 123, 136 
Prizmenitza, 180, 181 
Propoisk, 106 

Prudichevo, 131, 137, 148, 152 
Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III, 

King of, 10, 297 
Prussia, 4, 7, 8, 10, 19, 66 
Prussian Army, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19 

Pruzhani, 19, 91, 162, 163, 164, 

291, 328 
Pskov, 169 

Pushnitzki, Russian Colonel, 141 
Putna, R., 289 

Radziwil, Prince, Polish General 
of Brigade, 172 

Raievski, Nikolai Nikolaievich, 
Russian Lieut. -General, 55, 84, 
85, 86, 92, 94, 96, 97, 109, 125, 
129, 131-137, 138, 143, 202, 216, 
227, 237, 238, 247, 276, 278, 279, 

Rapp, Jean Baptiste, French 
General de Division, 206, 242, 
282, 368 

Rasasna, 122, 123, 126 

Razitzi, 173, 176, 177 

Razout, Jean Nicolas, Baron, 
French General de Division, 
134, 140, 142, 150, 152, 205, 
280, 318, 324, 341 

Reynier, Jean Louis Ebenezer, 
Comte, French General de 
Division, 36, 69, 80, 81, 84, 87, 
92, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164- 
168, 292, 329, 33°> 388, 389 

Riazan, 228 

Ricard, French General de Di- 
vision, 340, 341 

Riga, 6, 60, 61, 62, 89, 109, 170, 
171, 172, 260, 287, 293, 294, 
295, 297, 347, 387 

Rochechouart, Comte de, French 
Officer in Russian Service, 352 

Rogachev, 113, 123 

Roguet, Francois, Comte, French 
General de Division, 284, 336, 

337. 338, 34° 
Romanovo, 85, 86 
Romoeuf, French General de 

Brigade, 209 
Rosen, Grigorii Vladimirovich, 

Baron, Russian Major-General, 

121, 340 
Rossi, Russian Major-General, 141, 

Rossi, R., 329, 330 
Rossieni, 64, 68, 73, 171 
Rostopchin, Feodor Vasilievich, 

Comte, Governor-General of 

Moscow, 186, 225, 226, 232, 233 



Rosniecki, Alexander, Polish 

Cavalry General, 84, 86 
Roussel, 103 
Royal Citadel of Smolensk, 130, 

131. 135. 138 
Riidiger, Russian Colonel, 304 
Rudnia, 106, 121, 122 
Rumiantzev, Count Nikolai 

Petrovich, Grand Chancellor of 

Russia, 45, 248 
Rurikovich Tzars of Russia, 117 
Rusa, 223 
Russian Army, 43-50, 63, 65, 66, 

68, 108-109, 245-256, 287, 289, 

298, 333. 382 
Russian roads, 6, 59, 61, 67, 79, 80 
Rustan, Napoleon's Mameluke 

attendant, 379 

Sabaniev, Russian Lieut.-General, 

287, 289, 328, 348, 349, 358, 363* 

Sacken, Fabien von der Osten, 

Baron, Russian Lieut.-General 

(German), 56, 66, 160, 161, 168, 

292, 328-33 i> 348-386, 388 
Sahr, Saxon Brigadier, 166 
St. Genies, French General de 

Brigade, 100 
St. Germain, Comte, French 

General de Division, 38, 102, 

St. Petersburg, 144 
St. Priest, Emmanuel,! Comte de, 

Russian Major-General(French), 
' 119, 147, 202, 387 
Saltanovka, 92, 109 
Saltikov, Nikolai Ivanovich, 

Count, Russian Field-Marshal, 

Salza, Baron, Russian Staff 

Officer, 153 
Saumarez, Sir James de, British 

Admiral, 12 
Sazonov, Russian Major-General, 

173. 175. 178, 179. 304 

Scharnhorst, Prussian General, 99 

Scheler, Wurttemberg Lieut.- 
General, 116, 134, 140, 142, 150, 
153. 205, 230 

Schlock, 172, 293, 294 

Schwarzenberg, Karl Philip, Furst 
von, Austrian General, 19, 60, 

66, 69, 81, 87, 91, 92, 159, 160, 
163-169, 251, 260, 287, 290- 
292, 296, 306, 328-331, 348, 351, 
383, 387, 388, 389 

Sebastiani, Francesco Horatio 
Bastien, Comte, French General 
de Division (Corsican), 38, 80, 
114, 121, 122, 123, 230, 239, 
256, 258, 259 

Sebezh, 169, 173, 174, 295 

Selets, 94, 96 

Semenovskoi, 198-200, 203, 206- 

Semlevo, 194, 315, 320 

Semlino, 223 

Sereth, R., 289 

Seslavin, Captain, Russian, 250, 
272, 325. 379, 383 

Shakovski, Ivan, Russian Major- 
General, 216 

Shavli, 16 

Shein Ostrog, 138, 148 

Shevardino, 201, 206 

Shevich, Russian Major-General, 

Shuvalov, Pavel Andreievich, 
Count, Russian Lieut.-General, 
69, 102 

Siberia, 186 

Siberia, Prince of, Russian Major- 
General, 305 

Sieben, Bavarian Major-General, 
181, 182 

Siegenthal, Austrian Lieut.- 
General, 165, 166 

Sienno, 328 

Sievers I, Count, Russian Major- 
General, 93, 94, 97, 125, 203, 

Sievers II, Count, Russian 
Colonel of Engineers, 298, 299, 

Sigismund III, King of Poland, 

Sissoiev, Cossack Colonel, 93, 94, 

Sivokhino, 173, 174, 176, 182, 
286, 295, 298 

Skalon, Russian Major-General, 

Sklov, 114 

Slavkovo, 194, 308 

Slonim, 16, 62, 64, 81, 84, 91, 159, 
260, 292, 329, 330, 348 

Slutsk, 62, 85, 86, 90 


Smolensk, 61, 62, 70, 97, 99, 106, 
108, 116-121, 123-127, 128, 
129, 144. I45-I4 8 > 156-158, 183, 
184, 187, 189, 190, 193, 194, 251, 
252, 254, 259, 260, 269, 3°5, 3°6, 
308, 310, 315, 324, 325, 326, 327, 

331-335. 337. 34°. 341 
Smoliani, 346, 347 
Smorgoni, 64, 73, 83, 378, 379 
Sokal, 59 

Sokolnicki, General (Polish), 135 
Solovievo, 131, 137, 146, 154, 155, 

158, 192 
Soltyk, Comte, Polish Officer, 

quoted, 71 
Sorbier, Jean Bartheleray, Comte, 

French General de Division, 

215, 216 
Sparrow Hills, 229, 230 \ 

Spas, 1 78-1 8 1 
Spas Kuplia, 239, 250, 258 
Staroi Borisov, 364, 366 
Staroi Bykhov, 61, 93-97 
Staroi Konstantinov, 160, 289 
Staroi Selie, 375 
Stavidzki, Russian Colonel, 131 
Steingell, Thaddeus, Count, Rus- 
sian Lieut.-General, 58, 171, 262, 

286, 287, 291, 295, 297, 298-304, 

327, 366, 370 
Stragan, R., 149, 150, 153 
Strogonov, Pavel Alexandrovich, 

Russian Major-General, 104, 

138, 207, 208, 250 
Struria, 299, 300 
Studianka, 353, 357.358-362, 364- 

372, 374, 375 
Styr, R., 168, 286, 289, 290, 291 
Subervie, French General of the 

Brigade, 80 
Surazh, 106, 113, 114, 118 
Suvorov (Field-Marshal Prince), 

mentioned, 188 
Sventsiani, ,61, 64, 66, 68, 73, 74, 

75. 78, 79 
Sver, 78, 79 

Svislocz, on Berezina, 85 
Svislozh, 330 
Svolna, 177 
Sweden, 12, 13 

Tarutino, 239, 240, 245, 248, 269, 
250, 251, 256, 258, 261, 269, 
270, 272, 274, 276 

Tauroggen, 387 

Teveli, 168 

Tharreau, Jean Victor, Baron, 
French General de Division, 
38, 91, 92, 139. 208 

Thorn, 15 

Tilsit, 5, 11, 59, 61, 63, 64, 68, 73, 
387, 388 

Tilsit, Treaty of, 5 

Toll, Karl, Baron, Quartermaster- 
General of 1st Russian Army, 
54, 101, 119, 148, 192, 196, 227, 
228, 255 

Tolochin, 334, 353 

Tormazov, Alexander Petrovich, 
Count, Russian General, 19, 52, 
58, 66, 69, 91, 159, 161-169, 250, 
286, 287, 289-291, 296, 337-340, 

Tornov, Russian Colonel, 149 

Torres Vedras, 7 

Tuchkov I, Nikolai Alexeivich, 
Russian Lieut.-General, 69, 104, 
136, 137, 149, 152, 202, 203, 207, 
208, 213 

Tuchkov II, Peter Alexeivich, 
Russian Major-General, 349, 
386, 388 

Tuchkov III, Pavel Alexeivich, 
Russian Major-General, 147, 

Tuchkov IV, Alexander Alexei- 
vich, Russian Major-General, 
101, 104, 206, 208, 209 

Turno, Polish Brigadier-General, 
84, 85 

Turshaninov, Russian Colonel, 

Tutulmin, Director of Moscow 

Foundling Hospital, 233, 243 
Tyskiewicz, Polish Cavalry 

General, 85, 86, 284 i 
Tzarevo, 198, 203, 211, 212 


Uchach, 104, 302, 305 

Ula, R., 327, 346 

Uspensko'ie, 198 

Usveia, 346 

Utitza, 198, 199, 202, 206, 207, 
208, 216 

Uvarova, 334, 338 

Uvarov, Feodor Petrovich, Rus- 
sian Lieut.-General, 64, 74, 75 




101, 103, 118, 136, 147, 150, 193, 
213, 214, 224, 227, 318, 336 
Uzha, R., 192 

Valence, Cyrus Marie Alexandre, 
Comte de, French General de 
Division, 78, 83, 92, 94 

Valentin, French General de 
Brigade, 181 

Vandamme, Comte, French 
General de Division, 87 

Vassilchikov, Hilarion Vasilie- 
vich, Russian Major-General, 
85, 96, 97» I2 5, 137. 249, 258, 
276, 3 X 5. 3i8, 337 

Vaudoncourt quoted, 354 

Veliaminov, 293 

Velikii Luki, 254 

Velikii Novgorod, 169 

Velizh, 113, 114 

Verdier, Jean Antoine, Comte, 
French General de Division, 
38, 174, 175, 176, 178-182 

Vereia, 245, 269, 271, 272, 274, 
281, 284, 307, 309, 310 

Verkalobovo, 97 

Veselovo, 350 

Viasma, 2, 194, 196, 262, 284, 309, 
310, 314-320 

Viazema, 224, 225 

Victor (Claude Victor Perrin), 
Due de Belluno, Marshal of 
France, 14, 37, 251, 252, 260, 
296, 297, 305, 315, 325, 328, 
345-347, 35<3, 359. 363, 3&4> 
366-373, 374, 377. 387, 3 8 2 

Vileika, 88 

Vilia, 2, 67, 72, 73, 74 

Vilkomirz, 64, 74, 75, 78, 79 

Villata, Italian Brigadier-General, 

Villeblanche, M. de, French In- 

tendant of Smolensk, 252 
Vilna, 15, 16, 59, 61, 62, 64, 65, 
67-80, 108, 115, 116, 146, 188, 
190, 191, 251, 269, 287, 305, 
347, 376, 377, 378, 380, 381, 
383, 384, 385, 386, 387 
Vinkovo, 239, 256, 259, 262, 274 
Virgin of Smolensk, the, 202 
Vistitski II, Russian Major- 
General, 196 
Vistula, 2, 15, 16, Gi 

Vitebsk, 60-62, 100, 101, 102, 
104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 113, 
114, 115, 116, 120, 173, 182, 
260, 283, 305, 308, 328, 351 

Vladimir, 227, 231, 244, 246 

Vladimir Monomakh, King of 
Russia, 231 

Vlastov, Russian Major-General, 
178, 295. 3°4, 327. 356, 37° 

Voikov, Russian Artillery Colonel, 

Vo'inov, Russian Lieut.-General, 

287, 289, 291, 328, 348, 349, 35°, 
355, 358, 363 

Volkhonski, Peter Mikhailovich, 
Prince, Alexander's Adjutant- 
General, 65 

Volkovisk, 19, 62, 65, 66, 69, 77, 
81, 329, 385 

Vologin, 82 

Volokovaia, 124, 125, 136 

Vop, R., 325, 326 

Voronovo, 232, 239, 258, 271, 272 

Voronzov, Mikhail Semenovich, 
Count, Russian Major-General, 
56, 85, 97, 202, 203, 206 


Warsaw, 8, 15, 16, 62, 63, 67, 159, 
160, 164, 191, 291, 329, 378 

Warsaw (Grand Duchy), 2, 3, 7, 8, 
9, 15, 16, 18, 59, 61, 62, 64, 67, 
92, 292 

Wasowicz, Captain, Polish, 379 

Wellesley, Lord, British Minister, 

Wellington, Arthur Wellesey, 
Duke of, 7, 199, 390 

Wengrow, 260, 291 

Witte, Russian Colonel, 329 

Wittgenstein, Peter, Count, Rus- 
sian Lieut.-General (German), 
55, 58, 66, 67, 68, 69, 73, 74, 
78, 79, 80, 100, 101, 104, 105, 
114, 169-182, 245, 261, 262, 
286, 287, 295, 296, 297-304, 
3°5, 3°6, 325. 327, 328, 331, 
345-347, 352, 353, 356, 358, 
359, 363, 364-37 1 . 375, 386 

Wilson, Sir Robert, British Major- 
General, 120, 141, 144, 219, 
225, 232, 239, 246, 251, 275, 
280, 281, 288, 311, 354 


Winzingerode, Ferdinand, Baron, 
Russian Lieut.-General (Hes- 
sian), 117, 118, 122, 230, 244, 
250, 270, 273, 315, 326 

Wollzogen, Colonel von, German 
Officer on Russian Staff, 98, 118 

Wrede, Karl Philip, Comte, 
Bavarian General, 178-182, 295, 
299, 300, 3°4. 347. 375. 382, 384 

Wurttemberg, Prince Alexander 

of. 99. 153 
Wurttemberg, Friedrich Wilhelm, 

King of, 3 
Wylie, Doctor Sir James, 211 

Yefremov, Russian Colonel, 250 
Yerm61ov, Alexei Petrovich, Rus- 
sian Major-General, 54, 101, 119, 
124, 125, 147, 150, 210, 227, 246, 
256, 272, 352, 359, 364 

Yorck, Prussian Lieut.-General, 
294. 295. 387. 388 

Yukhnov, 269, 284 

Yuri "Dolgoruki," Founder of 
Moskow, 231 

Yurkovski, Russian Major-Gen- 
eral, 324, 327 

Zamosc, 164, 169 

Zapolski, Russian Major-General, 


Zaslavl, 160, 289 

Zayonczek, Joseph, Polish Gen- 
eral, 140, 326, 332, 335, 354, 

Zea Bermudez, Spanish envoy, 12 

Zechmeister, Austrian Major- 
General, 166 

Zembin, 349, 35°. 356,?36i, 362, 

Zvenigorod, 223